I find it hard not to like crust. It’s savage, primitive, and typically comes packaged with a thick DIY vibe that emanates like the stench of a gutter punk whose pants are held together by Discharge patches and broken dreams. Like most things, I prefer it with a little black or death metal mixed in, but even more traditional crust bands like Disfear and Wolfbrigade are plenty enjoyable now and then. Like those two acts, M:40 hail from Sweden and are heavily influenced by all things crust. Though they’re new to me, this quintet actually formed back in 2002 and have released three prior albums. Arvsynd (“Original Sin”) marks their first in seven years, fourth overall, and my first taste of their crusty hardcore assault.
Upon pushing play on opener “Svinakungens Sal,” the first band that comes to mind is Martyrdöd. Like them, M:40 dwell in the world of fast pounding rhythms and rushing chords that often contain quite a dramatic flair. Coupled with wild and manic screams, “Svinakungens” sounds ragged and furious and only breaks the assault for a cleanly picked interlude whose abrupt abandonment makes it feel a little shoehorned in. Nonetheless it’s a decent if slightly repetitive track whose follow-up “Räkenskapens Dag” fares a little better by featuring a more concise runtime and a more monumental conclusion, even if its riffing sounds very similar.
Third track “Djävulspakten” mixes things up a little bit with a faster tempo and the infusion of some basic melody, but by now the band’s Achilles heel is wholly apparent. Nearly all of the riffs here have a virtually identical feel, being comprised of rushing chords that aim for a dramatic feel. It’s not a bad approach, but when every song is built from this foundation it quickly grows old. It sounds like a strange thing to complain about for such a simple genre, but compared to a band like Martyrdöd, who have carved out quite a niche for themselves with their intricate melodies and leads, M:40 sound downright insipid. Hell, even other crust punk I’ve reviewed for this site, such as Victims, Parasit, and Marginal, feel more varied than this.
Granted, there are attempts at variety, but those end up feeling pretty feeble. “In I Labyrinten” features a lurching pace and marching rhythms, “Säckväv Och Aska” features a snappier tempo, and “Arvsynd” serves as an acoustic interlude to break things up. Along with that interlude, one of the more obvious attempts at diversity is “Din Faders Blick,” which abandons dramatic chords for angrier and more ripping guitars, adding in a strange rhythmic break for good measure. Likewise, closer “Ondska” feels less like traditional crust and more like a concise post-metal track that faintly reminds me of Neurosis. It’s not a bad song, but by this point it’s too little, too late. It doesn’t help that the vocals feel quite monotonous, which is interesting given that three of the five members are credited as contributing to them. It all combines to make these 38 minutes feel like quite a drag.
Fortunately, the production is actually quite good, with crisp drums, a balanced sound, and a nice distinct bass guitar that occasionally bumbles over the riffs. It’s a shame the music is such a bore. I suppose huge crust or hardcore fans might find Arvsynd more appealing, and perhaps the most positive thing I can say is that parts did remind me of the sadly defunct His Hero Is Gone. But while that band excelled at making simple music feel compelling, M:40 do anything but. The band’s core sound isn’t bad and I do enjoy the inflections of hardcore that come up in the scattered slow moments. Yet in the end, this is one case where the crust has simply gone stale.