Kulturkriget is the name of the forthcoming second album by the Swedish hardcore punk band Ett Dödens Maskineri, whose name seems to translate to “a machine of death“. As the album’s title forecasts, its lyrical themes explore “the tumultuous battleground of the culture war that saturates every facet of modern existence,” dissecting issues that range from “identity politics and media manipulation to ideological clashes.”
Anyone with eyes to see and ears to here knows that society in almost all of the world is fractured more severely than it has been in generations, and there seems no imminent way out of it, the fractures so deep and jagged that repairing them would seem to require some kind of wizardry beyond the capacity of mere mortals.
The music on Kulturkriget is undeniably in line with such thoughts — bringing forward intensely evocative melodies that are bleak and furious, heart-broken and seeking escape, desperate but defiant. The piercing and haunting power of the melodies and the relentless dynamism of the music is part of what makes the album stand well out from the pack, but it’s still a punk album at its core, and so it’s also raw and raging, confrontational and caustic, and a damn good antidote for anyone whose adrenaline is at low ebb.
Kulturkriget will be released on November 30th by Suicide Records. As reference points for the music, the label identifies inspiration from “classic Swedish crust-punk bands such as Skitsystem, Disfear, Anti-Cimex mixed together with tones of more melodic punk such as Asta Kask and Strebers.”
As those reference points suggest, the album is multi-faceted. It moves in unexpected directions as you go from track to track, in some cases diverging dramatically from whatever song you just heard, and we’ll just pick out a few of the twists and turns while also trying to identify some of the core through-lines. (But of course our main purpose here is to let you listen to all the tracks for yourselves, and so we won’t blame you if skip past all the following words and just start listening.)
A lot of the album’s core through-lines are established in the its first song, “Vapen och Ammunition“. Raw and raucous riffing opens it, and then the music quickly becomes a lot more explosive as drums hammer, the bass rumbles, chords slash like big meat-cleavers, and a voice yells and screams in a red-throated fury.
But through the song’s brawling energy a piercing lead guitar traces a weird and woozy path, like a gleaming and strangely seductive apparition. That’s the first sign of both the tonal and emotional contrasts the band have made a hallmark of their music, and a sign that they aren’t going to do everything as expected.
Another through-line emerges in the following song “Människovärdighet” — a through-line of darkness. The drumming is absolutely riveting, and the vocals pure fire, but the riffing is much more bleak, much more hopeless, and here the lead guitar wanders and wails as if lost in sorrow. As here, very dark moods re-surface in subsequent tracks like an inescapable reality.
On the other hand, the title song “Kulturkriget” sounds determined and defiant, albeit grim, and the ringing melodies might be heard to bring hints of hope, although the closing piano melody channels melancholy. Of course, the drumming and the bass-work will keep your pulse rate throbbing while the vocals fiercely strip paint from the walls.
Those shattering vocal tirades are certainly another through-line, in addition to the compulsive drumwork, the attention-seizing lead melodies, and the viscerally reflexive hooks in the riffs. The only significant divergence in the vocals occurs in “Distortion to Hell“, which introduces plaintive singing above throbbing undercurrents, wailing theremin-like overtones, and big thudding detonations.
That song is hallucinatory as well as dark, but not the only example of a twist away from hardcore punk.
“Med mandomen lindad runt halsen“, for example, is trippy and diabolical, dangerous but also seductive. A piano slowly rings above sounds of waves in “En ö i en ändlös ocean“, and then the music dramatically and dissonantly swells in pain above skipping beats, and subsides into confusion above tumbling drums, the song capped by the moaning of a guitar tuned to sound like a saxophone, followed by the gravel-toned growling of the bass.
“Stormsteg“, the album’s longest song, is another example of divergence. It’s introduced by drums that methodically hammer and a heavy, harmonized riff that sounds primitive and cold. Here again, the lead guitar seems like a lost spirit, though the vocals, as ever, are ragged, raw, and wrenching. The song is also occasionally backed by the quivering shimmer of keys, and its long final segment also brings in the twang of haunted picking and acoustic strumming.
In other instances, of course, the band kick up the attack, charging hard and cutting loose with clobbering drums, vocal bloodspray, and riffs that feverishly throb and slash. Yet as summarized earlier, dismal, distraught, and desperate moods are never far away, even in the songs that fight, even in the songs that sound like anthems. The music can seem like a rallying cry for resistance, but without a lot of hope for what will follow, like it seems to recognize that the deck is stacked against us — as it surely is.
Aidin Razavi: Guitar/Vocals
Andreas Thunmarker: Drums/Vocals
Daniel Garpebring: Vocals/Guitar
Erik Öyen: Bass
As noted, Kulturkriget is scheduled for release on Suicide Records on November 30th, and it will be available on vinyl and all major streaming platforms.