The Busy Man from Sweden
Roggin’ with Rogga.
Vocalist, guitarist, and occasional bassist Roger “Rogga” Johansson is a heck of a busy dude. You might know him from his more popular and longest-running projects like Ribspreader, Paganizer, or Megascavenger. You might also know him from any of the other 40 or so active bands listed on his Metal Archives page. I tend to dismiss any projects he’s involved in out of hand because I always expect them to be bog-standard OSDM. Is that a fair assessment? Is he really just repeating himself over and over? Have I maybe been missing out? To learn more, I listened (or tried to listen) to the 8 releases that he’s been involved in in 2022 (so far, not counting guest appearances). His involvement in writing the music is not always clear, and sure, I’m aware that most of this was probably not recorded this year, but 8 is still an impressive number (and thankfully a step down from last year’s 19). I’ll be going in alphabetical order to see what the guy gets up to in the course of a year.
Battle Axis – Bones of the Aggressor
February 25th | Guitar
Bad news: this project has basically no digital presence whatsoever, so I couldn’t listen to it. Apparently the label went rogue with some marketing stunt where they claimed that the band involved former members of Helloween and Hammerfall, and as a reaction, Battle Axis made themselves scarce online: no social media, no Bandcamp, certainly no Spotify. Doesn’t that play into the label’s strategy? Anyway, a German reviewer on YouTube—who wasn’t even aware that Johansson was involved because of how little info there is—tells me this is rumbling, unpolished-sounding speed/trad metal that’s heavy on the low end. Ergo the good news: it’s not OSDM, so it would seem my re-appraisal of Rogga has some merit. I wonder what sonic adventures await!
Echelon – Open Wide the Adamantine Gates
June 30th | Guitar
None whatsoever if this is anything to go by. HM-2 sound and Dave Ingram on vocals make for pretty much exactly the dime-a-dozen death metal I expected. I suppose if the opportunity to work with Ingram presents itself, you don’t say no (although this is not their only project together). And I suppose if Dave doesn’t feel like doing anything interesting, that’s just how it’s gonna be. And at that point, you might as well pen some cringe-ass lyrics like in “Sins of the Sycophants” (“Black appareled social justice / Ride upon coat tails […] No outstanding qualities / You’re simply limelight based” etc etc), because why not be tiresome and uninspired across the board. Exceptions are “Into the Trapezoid” and the cool chuggy bits in “Diaboli Vindictam,” but unless you’re jonesing for more Benediction, maybe skip the rest. Enthusiasm significantly dampened!
Furnace – Stellarum
June 10th | Guitar, Vocals
With my newly lowered expectations, a horror sci-fi concept album involving a doomsday cult, a spaceship going to Mars, and Yog-Sothoth already shows way more ambition than I dared hope for, and then it turned out this one has some tunes, too. While it’s repeat collaborator Peter Svensson who wrote the lyrics (and hence, I imagine, the story), Rogga wrote the music, and it’s really catchy stuff with a lot of melody that surprisingly often borders on gothic metal. I think if you mashed together early and later Paradise Lost (or maybe did the same with something like Amorphis), this is what the result might sound like. “Manifestations” is a bit of a standout as it even ventures into clean vocals for a minute, but bangers that ooze schlock horror charm can be found throughout. Consider me refreshed!
Gauntlet Rule – The Plague Court
March 18th | Guitar
Some personnel overlap with Furnace here: same drummer and same female guest vocalist. Does that matter or am I just already struggling to find something to say about this? You decide. Anyway, this is more trad metal, and if it’s anything to go by, we didn’t miss a whole lot with that Battle Axis record. It gets quite thrashy at times and has some juicy guitar solos, but largely sticks to mid-tempo songs that don’t quite succeed in giving me that epic feel. Yet, even though there’s nothing too remarkable here, it might still be tolerable if it wasn’t for the singer, who is pretty up front in the mix and struggles to lay on some sense of grandeur. He’s… not very good. That’s all. Still, points for being something I didn’t expect to find in Rogga’s oeuvre, I suppose. Flatlining! Flaccid! Next!
Heir Corpse One – Caribbean Frights
September 30th | Guitar, Vocals
Is there some joke I’m missing? Why is it “heir” instead of “hair” or… I don’t know, some word to do with death? And what the hell is a carib bean? Despite these daunting questions, I was looking forward to this, as the apparent silliness of the project had me hoping for maybe some fun deathgrind or perhaps even crossover thrash. Rest assured there is not a trace of humor to be found beyond the puns and the getup. Musically, it’s very standard death metal. More entertaining than Echelon and with the decency to keep things brief, but nothing you haven’t heard 25 times already. Lyrically, it’s very standard death metal. Dying, death, expediting the former to prolong the latter, or vice versa. You know the drill. It also doesn’t feature anyone Rogga hasn’t worked with in at least one other project, so I assume the genesis of this really was “hey guys, I have a mildly funny band name, let’s do something with that.” Shoot it down!
Massacre – Mythos
July 1st | Guitar
I keep forgetting Massacre is still a thing. In fact, I keep forgetting Massacre did anything after From Beyond. Since they originally formed when our man was about 8, this certainly can’t be considered an original Rogga joint, but he’s listed as a full-on member since 2020 and is sometimes credited for songwriting, so I’m gonna count it. If you’ve heard their last full-length (or read Goatforest‘s review), you know exactly what to expect. The latest iteration of the band burst onto the scene they helped create with a highly polished product, laser-focused on good ol’ mindless fun. They’ve not taken a step back here, nor have they taken one to either side to explore anything that doesn’t fit their mold to a T. The pedal is kept to the metal, and the EP format saves it from getting stale. Not a must for anyone other than superfans, but a nice little kick to the head from some very big boots that have been expertly filled. Acceptable!
Alright, that’s enough for today. Why are we taking a break with only 2 more releases to go? Well, in the course of writing this, it turned out that the artist page I was going off of is not very accurate and I had overlooked a further 5. My rudimentary math skills tell me this puts us at 13 releases total. Jesus Christ, what have I gotten myself into.