Review: FurnaceDark Vistas

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In the time it takes you to read this review, Rogga Johansson will have formed a new band and already released their debut album on Transcending Obscurity Records. His active bands number in the dozens, if Metal Archives can be believed, and he’s actually having an OFF year with only ~8 releases so far in 2020. Are all his albums and projects worth listening to? No idea, and probably not, but today we’re talking about FURNACE (who already released another album this year), featuring Rogga and some other dudes.

Now, check out that album cover and fucking tell me you didn’t think it was some kind of Hellhammer revival project. Instead, it’s what I’d describe as “80s gothic death metal”™: “80s” as in lots of clean, Bryan Adams-y arpeggios sprinkled throughout, “gothic” as in the song structures and simple melodic lead lines bring to mind up-tempo The Cure (there are no solos here, any more than what Robert Smith would play), and “death metal” as in, well, it is Rogga Johansson on vocals and guitars. The guitar tones and riffs are heavy and thicc but not “death metal,” and the drums occasionally thrash but do not blast.

So does this gothic monstrosity actually work? Well, yeah, it kinda does! “Suburban Nightmare” is a great opener with all the things that make this album enjoyable. It’s simple but catchy, upbeat and fun, and I love hearing the death metal vocals against the not-death-metal-at-all riffing. “The Other Ones,” the verses in “The Calling” (my favorite song on the album), and the riff 25 seconds into “Trapped!” totally give me a Ghost, Opus Eponymous vibe, though much heavier. “From The Blackest Void” has a lovely intro and a nice breakdown at the 2 minute mark that pairs staccato, stabbing chords and a droning lead line before heading back into the thrashy section. The ride cymbal work in the verses to “94 Bloch Lane” tickles my fancy, and “Another Ending” is a reprise of sorts of the opening track with cool, rolling tom-based drums in the verses before exploding into that really cool uptempo part from “Suburban Nightmare.” It’s cool stuff.

The lyrics aren’t exactly poetic and are based on the writings of (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) H.P. Lovecraft. I generally don’t care about lyrics that much with any kind of music, and if said lyrics are delivered in a sick death metal growl, then I really don’t care (within reason). It is, however, distressing that my score on the “Who Said It – Hitler or Lovecraft?” quiz was basically what you’d get by randomly guessing, which is exactly what I did.

One issue I had with Dark Vistas is that, since the album relies on a few songwriting tropes, things get kinda samey after a while. Also (and this is just a minor distraction), I swear the opening riff to “The Other Ones” is played ahead of the beat or something, and not in a good way. And since the clean, 80s arpeggios are so prominently featured throughout the album, I kinda wish the tone was less muffled than it is; a little more presence, chorus, and delay would go a long way towards helping them sparkle.

So, while this won’t be anyone’s AOTY, it’s an enjoyable listen. If you like death metal that could easily have been featured in an 80s horror movie, get out your dark Visa and plunk down some cash on Dark Vistas (sorry, dad jokes are in my nature).

3 Disembodied Rogga Heads out of 5

Dark Vistas is out on Soulseller Records on October 9th.

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