As usual, it looks like Rogga Johansson has been a busy little beaver…
Sweden’s one-man death metal factory, Rogga has two albums coming out soon, this fourth effort from The Grotesquery and also the fourth from his collaboration with Master / Death Strike mainstay Paul Speckmann, in the cleverly named Johansson & Speckmann.
For The Lupine Anathema, The Grotesquery abandons the previous storyline, going off the plot into a tangential collection of Lovecraftian creepiness, this one about werewolves. Still, that new lyrical focus is the only real change, and Lupine is as strong and straightforward as the three before it. Lee’s vocals are classic death, a deep bellowing half-growl that is generally intelligible, perfectly powerful and punishing. The production is equally stout – Rogga’s guitars are meaty and thick; performed by erstwhile Johansson partner-in-crime Brynjar Helgetun, the drums hit hard and strong; Johan Berglund’s bass steps out occasionally for some interesting blurbles, adding a tasty counterpoint to Rogga’s riffs, but mostly, it stays underneath, underpinning Rogga’s array of chunky riffs and melodies.
Largely eschewing the previous albums’ reliance upon inter-track dialogue to further the plot, The Lupine Anathema lets its songs do the talking, and they hold up their end of the conversation nicely. The vicious “By Feral Ways,” the earworm “hoo-ah” chants in “The Faceless God” (the album’s strongest moment), the ripping “Ithaqua The Wind Walker” – pretty much every track has its share of solid riffing, catchy and heavy in equal measure, and no song fails.
Still, aside from the lyrical concept, this type of death metal isn’t exactly ground-breaking. As with most of Johansson’s work, how much you enjoy The Grotesquery ultimately depends on your taste for meat and potatoes – although this one is a steak and rosemary roasted potato in a four-star restaurant; it’s delicious and well prepared, and yet traditional in scope. Lovecraft and death metal are no strangers to one another, and crushing melodic death metal certainly isn’t new, but when all are combined with this level of skill and inspiration, only the pickiest among us would have much cause to find fault.