ROGGA JOHANSSON
"Entrance To The Otherwhere"

(Transcending Obscurity)

01. The Re-Emergers
02. Till Bergets Puls
03. When the Otherwhere Opens
04. Giants Walking at Night
05. As Evil Seeps Out
06. Berget Vaknar
07. Entrance to the Otherwhere
08. A Journey into Fear
09. In the Grip of Garpedans

RATING: 8.5/10

If death metal had its own dictionary, the entry for "prolific" would read, simply: "see ROGGA JOHANSSON for details." Given how ridiculously productive the Swede has been over the last two decades, it's still staggering how little his work is acknowledged by the broader metal scene. Just check out releases by the likes of PAGANIZER, RIBSPREADER, DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN, ECHELON, GRISLY and MEGASCAVENGER for endless evidence that ROGGA is a contemporary death metal heavyweight with a seemingly unerring knack for writing the kind of riffs that you would want to hear at maximum volume while driving a juggernaut through the gates of hell. Frankly, it's hard to see how any death metal devotee could have failed to recognize the man's brilliance by this point, but "Entrance to the Otherwhere" makes for a particularly irresistible entry point for the uninitiated. His second solo album, assuming we pretend that most of his "bands" aren't effectively solo projects in all but name, this could easily be the record that finally pushes ROGGA reluctantly into the spotlight. Infernally catchy but never less than grim and murderous, these are uniformly sublime examples of mid-to-fast-paced brutality, steeped in that irresistible Swedish sense of melody and executed with the breathless, warts 'n' all rush of a live performance. Quite how he finds time to get it all done is anyone's guess.

Perhaps mindful of the fact that this album follows an extraordinary hot streak of projects that have been, at times, almost impossible to keep up with, ROGGA could well be attempting some kind of definitive statement here. "Entrance to the Otherwhere" showcases the man's riffs in much the same way that all his other releases have done, but there is a succinctness and refinement to these songs that far exceeds the majority of his, admittedly consistent and generally killer, catalogue. Opener "The Re-Emergers" is a glorious opening salvo, with its insistent melodic refrain and pointed early-to-mid-'90s vibes. In fact, anyone mourning the melo-death scene's somewhat wayward recent trajectory should get stuck into songs like "Till Bergets Puls" and "Giants Walking at Night" immediately. While IN FLAMES continue to circle the credibility plughole, it's quietly exhilarating to hear their once noble spirit being given a welcome jolting dose of fresh impetus, even if it does come with a big, scabby helping of none-more-underground defiance.

With flashes of horrified, synth ambience, "As Evil Seeps Out" is a thrilling mid-album peak. ROGGA's gruff and gargled but crystal clear vocal delivery has always been one of his more unusual weapons, and here he sounds hugely authoritative, barking malevolence over a tune that inadvertently brings to mind "The Crusher"-era AMON AMARTH and a series of riffs that deftly combine the crushing with the classic. The title track, too, is startling in its melodic simplicity, with several subtle nods to the old school, and even a slight hint of blackened iciness to counterbalance the primitive thud of the riffs. The rest, without exception, are just as compelling.

He may be destined to be a cult hero forever, and ROGGA has never given any indication that he desires more than that, but "Entrance to the Otherwhere" is such a bullish and confident affair, it's hard to imagine it won't greatly enhance this unstoppable Swede's reputation. And if you don't like this album, there will definitely be another one along in a minute or two. Like death itself, some creative forces can't be stopped.

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