Martyrdöd – Hexhammaren (Century Media)

Metallic d-beaters Martydöd have undergone some serious disruption since the release of their last album, List: bassist Fredrik Reinedah departed the Swedish outfit in 2017, replaced by Sister’s Tim Rosenqvist, while long-serving axe slinger Pontus Redig quit last year. Rosenqvist shifted to guitar and Daniel Ekeroth (formerly of deathsters Insision) was recruited to fill the gap. Got that? Phew!

However, Martyrdöd’s ability to fuse fiery Norse melodies with raging crust punk has not been diminished. And while List and its predecessors, such as the incendiary Elddop and 2012’s gamechanging Paranoia, were stunning efforts, Hexhammaren tops them.

Given the quality of Martydöd’s recent output, we know that’s saying something.

But listen to the opening title track – a turbocharged, thrashed up onslaught of a tune that somehow manages to be more punk, more metal and more angry than anything they’ve put out before –  and you’ll understand where we’re coming from.

For many years, the band have spread their wings wider than most d-beat/crust acts. However, songs like Rännilar and In The Dead Of Night see Rosenqvist and founding vocalist/guitarist Mikael Kjellman imbue their playing with a passion, a sense of drama, that gives it a great emotional depth. This isn’t just music to punch through walls to (though Bait and Switch will do the job, no question), it’s an album crafted with true care and attention, where melodic dexterity goes hand in hand with brute force and the kind of riffs most bands of Martydöd’s ilk would kill for (Cashless Society and Den Sista Striden contain some particularly glorious examples).

Hexhammaren also sees the quartet operate at a higher musical level than before. Combined with a new deal with Century Media, it may even extend Martyrdöd’s reach further into the metal community.

Whatever happens next though, Martyrdöd can be satisfied they’ve come through a period of strife in fine shape… and bearing an exhilarating record with them.