Johansson & Speckmann – From The Mouth Of Madness Review

Though I’ve been a fan of Master / Death Strike and Abomination for ages, and though I enjoy Paganizer and The Grotesquery amongst some others of Johansson’s myriad outlets, I wasn’t blown away by the last Johansson & Speckmann album, 2016’s Edge Of The Abyss.  That one just felt a little “been there, heard that” – it was the expected combination of the two band leaders’ established styles, but it wasn’t quite the sum of its parts, instead falling just a hair short of the quality of either Johansson or Speckmann’s primary projects. Edge Of The Abyss was a good record, but not a great one.

Release date: March 30, 2018. Label: Soulseller.
From The Mouth Of Madness is the fourth album under this joint banner, and it’s one that Johansson has described as their best yet. I can’t necessarily speak for that, but I can say with certainty that it’s an improvement over its predecessor; though it’s not without fault, it’s a more energetic endeavor, a better constructed and more inspired one, and one that’s just generally more interesting across the board.

Of course, what it isn’t is surprising, stylistically. It still sounds like Master crossed with a bit more straight-ahead lumbering death, with Speckmann’s distinctive choked growl, plus that “disgusted with the world” attitude that seeps through his whole canon. Speckmann’s spirit permeates the entire affair, which isn’t surprising given Rogga’s ability to shape-shift his metal into a variety of projects, somewhat customized for any occasion. This particular one is a simple formula: chordal, almost punk-ish riffs, that, while rudimentary and flash-less never tread into the rote; basic song structures; tempos that alternate between a bulldozer roll and a faster drive, but that never ascend into blasting; periodic bursts of lead guitar from Kjetil Lynghaug to spice things up, but not too much.

From the opening of “The Demons Night,” through the “I hit him with a shovel” murderous tale of “Is This Just Virtual?” and beyond, all the way to “Kill And Kill,” From The Mouth Of Madness is a half-hour of interchangeable respectable death – the almost doomy swing of “Condemned,” or the crawling lurch of “Why Fear,” or the two-step thrashing and tremolo riff of “The Fallen Angel,” which is a late entry highlight.

If there are any criticisms to level, they are these: One, nothing here is as good as either of the band members’ other outfits – Master is much better at a very similar sound, and Rogga-led units like The Grotesquery or Down Among The Dead Men produce better death metal in different veins. Still, this is a side project for both men, the product of two creative minds collaborating on some common ground, and taken as such, it’s absolutely enjoyable for what it is.  And the second criticism is one that could be leveled against many a band: There’s not a ton of diversity within the album: It’s a straight-forward old-style death metal record, with some noticeable punk influence and plenty of thick riffs to back it up. Again, take it for what it is, and don’t overthink it…

With a new Master looming on the distant horizon, and Rogga about to drop a solid disc in the new Grotesquery, From The Mouth Of Madness is timed a bit unfortunately, likely damned to be overshadowed yet again by both creators’ better efforts. Still, if you’re in the market for a quick fix of dirty death metal, there are worse ways to spend thirty minutes…

Posted by Andrew Edmunds

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; born in the cemetery, under the sign of the MOOOOOOON...

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