Victims – The Horse and Sparrow Theory (Relapse Records)

It’s hard to believe that Victims have been d-beating us around the head for more than two decades now – but no surprise that their new material is as intelligent, incisive and vitriolic as ever. Compared to recent work by the Swedes’ contemporaries, bands like Wolfbrigade and Martyrdöd, The Horse and Sparrow Theory isn’t particularly violent, from a sonic perspective anyway. The pace and aggression has been toned down just a touch since 2016’s Sirens. Maybe the production (courtesy of Karl Daniel Lidén) could be too subtle for some.

However, the quartet’s dissections of climate change and corporate greed are savage… and the band’s music is fittingly full of dread and sorrow. The sludgey We Fail explores the geopolitical and military consequences of environmental collapse, courtesy of excerpts from a speech by Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, CEO of the American Security Project: it’s chilling.

There’s Blood On The Streets is more typical discore fare, but with the kind of chord progressions that come from accomplished songwriters, not Discharge clones. The Sea and Poison, similarly, strikes like a baton round, channelling the band’s rage in just under two minutes of crust-coated mayhem.

But it’s the emotionally fraught Revenge Of Our Fathers – the album’s bitter conclusion – that stands out most prominently, and demonstrates Victims’ supreme songcraft, shaped by more than 20 years at the frontline of hardcore.

And in a year when protest music is starting to take centre stage – at least in the punk and metal communities – it’s good to have Victims back at the barricades.