Ever seen one of those Jason Statham movies? I’m not talking, like, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels here, but one of his movies that has a title like “The Firefighter” or “Explosive 2” or whatever, the ones that just appear every so often down towards the bottom of the New Release section on your favorite streaming service. You know them: They’re pretty much all variations on the same basic premise — he’s just a quiet guy, or so it seems, but then something happens, and he has to punch people… a lot. Those movies are basically all the same movie, but that’s okay because they’re also all different degrees of entertaining. Even the worst one will have some good action moments, and the best ones are actually quite good, even if they’re unlikely to win critical acclaim.
For this particular variation upon his theme, Rogga is co-starring with vocalist Mike Hrubovcak of Monstrosity and drummer Matthias Fiebig, the latter of whom is no stranger to the Rogga-verse, having manned the kit for Johansson projects Ribspreader, Paganizer, Carve, Bloodgut, and Dead Sun. This new trio takes their name from the 1980 Fulci film, The House By The Cemetery, except that you’ll notice that the film spells “cemetery” properly.
Musically, Rise Of The Rotten is a relatively straight-up Swedish death metal record, simple and with no frills, although honestly, perhaps a frill or two wouldn’t have been remiss. Rise is a professional, if admittedly workmanlike, journey through the standards of the style. HM2-fuzzed guitars carve and crunch; Rogga’s riffs run the gamut from the tremolo-picked to the chunky. Hrubovac’s growls and grunts are usually intelligible, often layered, a classic-sounding death metal guttural that befits his place in a classic-era American death metal band that never seems to get appropriate credit. Fiebig pushes the whole thing forward with the requisite blasts and kick-drum-driven swagger. Musically, in this House, there are no surprises. If forced to pick standouts, a few songs raise their hand above the others: “Crematory Whore,” with its jaunty bounce that downshifts into a chugging and infectious midsection, Hrubovac’s vocal briefly ping-ponging back and forth across the stereo field for the building “burn, burn, BURN!” Or maybe the methodical bulldozer drive of “A Morbid Scent,” which is highly likely the least successful line of Glade Plug-Ins.
In the pantheon of Rogga (or as much of it as I can keep up with — the man’s creative pace is relentless), House By The Cemetary stands in the middle of the pack, pretty much the embodiment of his straight-ahead death metal style. That adherence to formula is a blessing and a curse, of course: Rise Of The Rotten is so down-the-middle that it doesn’t leap out in any direction. Songs chug by, and after the first few, as you listen, it’s easy to drift away, then come to and look down, and suddenly, you’re three songs further on. Of course, that also means that Rise Of The Rotten has no major flaws or failures, no hiccups or stumbles. It’s here; it plays death metal in a standard death metal style; it moves on. If you’re a Swedeath die-hard looking for a fun way to fill a half-hour, then you could do worse than this one, no question, but I wouldn’t expect it to reach its ghostly hand up from below and drag you down to the depths forever.