As you’d imagine, basing an entire genre around the work of one punk band begets limitations. As great and vicious as Discharge was and d-beat is, it’s inevitable that the legions of bands staying the course begin to sound the same. In a scene overcrowded, but yet one that seems to pride itself upon strict adherence to the core, it’s refreshing when a band comes along that can both step outside the norm and yet fit perfectly within it.
These Swedes push themselves above the d-beat horde simply by adopting a prominent outside influence, and indeed, one the imitation of which is not particularly ground-breaking in its own right. And yet when combined with the Anti-Cimex-based bashing beneath, the melodic Bathory tendencies herein feel positively revolutionary. Sure, other punk bands have done melody, in many different ways, but few if any have achieved this level of fist-in-the-air catchiness, this marriage of the resolutely defiant and the absolutely epic.
Those twin titans of Swedish extremity are Martyrdod’s stated idols, the veins in which they’re following, and they’re a perfect blend of both, with the raging drumbeat that defines the style meshed brilliantly beneath twirling guitar leads. Eldopp is the band’s second for crust-stable Southern Lord, behind 2012’s Paranoia, and it improves upon that album’s already-strong base, not by tweaking the format but by sharpening it.
Even as raging as the album is, many of its highlights are those that best showcase the melodic component — in “Synd,” a doomy riff gives way to straight-ahead swinging punk before the guitars introduce some of Eldopp‘s strongest epic melodies; the title track is nearly folk-metal in its introductory motif, but never succumbs to that style’s inherent silliness, buoyed by the hardcore underpinning beneath. “Martyren” features a guitar opening likely unlike any on any punk record ever, all beautifully spinning leads and Maiden-like melody — perhaps not surprisingly, it’s one of the album’s and the band’s strongest tracks. Martyrdod gallops, rocks, trudges, and wallops — all in equal measure, all with surprisingly memorable riffing and as strong a set of songs as the d-beat world has seen in awhile.
To say that this type of crusty hardcore has been oversaturated is an understatement, and even a once-ardent champion of this chaos like me must admit that the style is growing stale. Still, even as I say such things, I must concede that Martyrdod is proof against it, if only one band in the midst of many. Eldopp is a grand statement of modern punk, moving beyond the constraints inherent in the basics of their style, adding elements outside the norm, but never forgetting to rage like all holy hell. (Of course, that latter point is the point, when you get down to it, and nothing on Eldopp would be worth anything were that forgotten. And thankfully, it isn’t.)
Where many others merely replicate, Martyrdod moves forward. Progress and survive.