Review: ROGGA JOHANSSON “Garpedans”

Review: ROGGA JOHANSSON “Garpedans”

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ROGGA JOHANSSON “Garpedans”
Chaos records

Rogga Johannson’s latest release, Garpedans, has a bit of history behind it. It started out as the follow up to the third Demiurg release (that being the collaboration between Rogga and Dan Swanö amongst others). It’s not entirely clear what happened, but this has now been released by Rogga under his own name with various parts rewritten and/or rerecorded and without Dan.

So much for the history: what about the music? Well, it’s old school Swedish death metal. And it’s damn close to perfect. As with a lot of the multi-talented Swedish musicians, Rogga can craft a perfect piece of death metal, perform it and record it practically in his sleep. It’s hard to describe the fine line between this being near-perfect and formulaic, because it has all the elements that you would expect: savage power, annihilating drums and distorted vocals. And of course, the right kind of lyrics (OK there’s a bit where I thought he was going to break out in “Jerusalem” because he mentioned something on the lines of “in ancient times” but apparently it’s something to do with Garpe the giant being turned into a mountain) about death, suffering and blood. In copious quantity.

From the opening notes of first track “At mountain garpe” Rogga sets out his mission: subjugate all listeners.  The vocals are ponderous and majestic, overlaying some rather fine heavy guitar riffs. The drums are ever-present, but restrained (by death metal standards) until the second track breaks loose and hurtles away. Don’t get the feeling that this is in any way out of control, though, it’s more a morass of seething dark passion. There’s a nice mixture of pace amongst the tracks, from frenetic to fast and furious. There are some very nice pieces of very typically Swedish guitar work, where you can hear comparisons to whoever your favourite Swedish death metal band of the moment are (I’ve been listening to a lot of Amon Amarth recently, so that’ll do for me) and echoes of other Swedish death metal bands that are composed of musicians who all play elsewhere for their day jobs (Bloodbath and the like).

Each time I listen to this album, I hear little sections that are repeated or adapted in different tracks, which makes it very easy to see as a whole work. That’s a good thing in my mind, I don’t overmuch like listening to too many disparate tracks just stuck together.  My other favourite thing is the absence of pig squeals.  I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed listening to Garpedans: the quality of musicianship and the craftmanship behind this album make it far more than just a colour-by-numbers death metal release. Sometimes, when you can do something really well, that’s just what you should do: not get all experimental and out-there but just stick with producing something excellent. Good on ya, Rogga!

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