Friday, October 25, 2013

Johansson & Speckmann - Sulphur Skies

The percentage of projects which Rogga Johansson is involved in that sound like every other project which Rogga Johansson has been in is over one hundred percent. I don't even need to listen to this release to know what it's going to sound like. Remarkably, people flock to the dude like fifty year old metal fans flock to Iron Maiden concerts. Much like Iron Maiden, Rogga has been doing the exact same thing forever, is unabashed about it and doesn't seem like he has any interest in anything other than the Swedish death metal which he pumps out like an overworked assembly line that's been making the same product regardless of quality for aeons. In reality, I have no problem with any of Rogga's music. It's very good to use as a baseline for measuring Swedeath. It's perfectly average. It's pretty fundamental stuff that you really can't hate, even if we can be honest about it's redundancy. Paganizer has made appearances in Contaminated Tones several times already and the verdict was similar to my opinions here. Humanity Delete also ran into some problems but was a better effort. Johansson and Speckmann, is the same message, the same style that we've come to love or be bored by and offers the same thing we either love or are bored by, but with Paul Speckmann on vocals.

Preface out of the way, I'll make note of some of the stuff that I really did enjoy. One thing which Sulphur Skies has going for it is in fact Speckmann, whose vocals are pretty good on the release and offer a bit of differentiation and interest. At times the words at the end of phrases trail off in, what I imagine to be, a stream of dribble down his beard. I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere behind the curly grey quills escaping from his face like prisoners jetting out of a POW camp, is John Tardy. There is no comparison here to Speckmann's bitterness and emotion in Master or Death Strike but Speckmann never seems tired or bored. He must be one of those guys that just unconditionally loves death metal. Still, the tracks here emit a certain level of timidity which ensconces the release in the kind of aura which you would find above a man painting his house with a toothbrush or hovering next to a seventeen year old in a first grade math class. Even some of the longer screams are not nearly vicious enough. Some other notable moments are the various leads that appear throughout the release. The first of which, several notes held out over the dross death metal underneath, comes into focus near the end of second track "Spiritual Wasteland," and again in third track "Taste the Iron," a song which I imagine has a lot to do with laundry. Slower moments on Sulphur Skies rekindle those memories of hearing Into The Grave for the first time. In my case, it made me actually put on the classic album instead of listening to Johansson And Speckmann. You can't argue with classics and this just emphasized what Sulphur Skies is missing - the evil.

If I had to pick out a highlight, it would be title track "Sulphur Skies." The one track summarizes the entire release. It's a blitzing beast of predictability and Rogga-riffs. The main recurring verse phrase is rather awesome and memorable. The lead at the end is well situated. The drumming of Brynjar Helgetun is precise and compliments his old compatriot Rogga. If I had to pick out a final lowlight, it would be the pacing of this album, also an issue with many other Johansson led releases. It's twelve tracks, all basically exactly the same length, with similar structures and not a huge amount of differentiation between tracks other than the occasional memorable intro riff. "Vile Stench and Decay" is one such track with a memorable introductory riff. At it's heart, this is a death metal fan's album. If you're the kind of person who has no restraint when it comes to Death Metal, you'll probably love this. If you like death metal that is complex, difficult and unique, there is none of that here and for that reason, it's not my chalice of blood.

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