Rogga Johansson
Entrance to the Otherwhere

A seasoned veteran and stalwart of the Swedish death metal scene, the prolific Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, Ribspreader, Down Among the Dead Men and countless other acts) has dipped his toes into solo waters again for sophomore album, Entrance to the Otherwhere. The multi-talented artist handles all lyrics, music and songwriting duties, ably assisted by session drummer Brynjar Helgetun (The Grotesquery) to deliver a refreshingly nostalgic yet modernized brand of classic Swedish melodeath. What Entrance to the Otherwhere lacks in innovation, it makes up for with Rogga’s passionate and accomplished grasp of a classic style, devoid of the more banal and poppy sensibilities that have plagued the modern melodic death metal scene in the modern era.

Rogga knows his shit and taps into the rich veins of the ‘90s scene of his homeland, crafting a simple yet majestic slab of beefy and melancholic melodeath goodness, rich in dreary atmosphere and sparkling with gloomy melodies and hefty, headbangable riffs. The formula is familiar and rather straightforward, which makes the engaging, catchy nature of the album even more impressive, a testament to the experience and expert craftmanship wielded by a man that bleeds death metal authenticity. Well written and concise songs make for a sharp and easily replayable listen, free from over-indulgence and unnecessary embellishments, though the crafty integration of synths and creative drum patterns adds tasteful flair to the hearty stew.

A burly crunch defines the album’s ample catchy riffs and overall tone, while the predominantly mid-tempo delivery is enlivened by well incorporated shifts in pace and momentum, revealing solidly dynamic compositions and individuality. Rogga’s gruff growls and pitch variations offer the perfect accompaniment to songs that strike a nifty balance of brutality, melody and sheer sonic girth. Chugging riffs, melodic squalls and energetic drumming propel the beastly grooves and irresistible hooks of “Giants Walking at Night,” just one of a handful of standout cuts throughout a consistently solid album. “As Evil Seeps Out” is a simple yet vintage sounding melodeath gem, boasting addictive melodies, chunky riffs and dark, brooding grooves. Closing out with the downtrodden doomy wallop of “In the Grip of Garpedans,” Entrance to the Otherwhere ends on an emotively gloomy note.

Bolstered by a rich, warm and organic production, Entrance to the Otherwhere sounds fantastic and Rogga’s tight and confident guitar work bristles with energy and gripping hooks, the differing elements forming a harmonious combination. The downsides are relatively minor but worthy of mention. As inspired as the writing and playing on the album proves to be, overall Rogga isn’t really exploring any new territory or pushing boundaries creatively. And as occasionally outstanding as parts of the album are, it falls short of mind blowing levels of awesomeness, while atmospheric instrumental “Berget Vaknar” is a pleasant but unnecessary momentum killer. Rogga’s intent appears to revolve around upgrading the classic melodic death sound of the ‘90s era, mastered by the likes of Edge of Sanity, when the darkened melodies didn’t compromise an overarching degree of heaviness and ruggedness. In this regard Rogga has done an exceptional job.

Entrance to the Otherwhere may struggle to match some of 2019’s more adventurous and essential death metal albums, but it more than holds its own within the confines of a classic style being rebooted by a master of his craft. Catchy songs that revel in their understated constructions and entice the listener back for more dominate an album of polished melodeath gems that put guts, grit and timeless flair into the melodeath scene. A solid accomplishment indeed.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
August 26th, 2019

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