Sunday, July 3, 2016

Megascavenger - As Dystopia Beckons [2016]

Imagine if Rogga Johansson were a heavy metal DJ. He could slip in at least half a dozen of his own tracks, culled from a pool of releases spanning, over a decade, a veritable compendium in the finesse and artistry of Swedish death metal, and not a soul would notice. Regardless of what he owes his creative and productive force to, the man is to praised for the sheer size and scope of his output, so much so that even I've reviewed more than a couple of them, though it is very difficult to keep up with all his works. Of course this comes with the principal issue of having to beat around the bush excessively, since his brand of 90's, Entombed/Dismember-influenced death metal, however well and tactfully executed, falls short of enticing most of the time with so many of his riffs being xeroxed from a grisly, brutalized melting pot of the aforementioned bands, plus a few regular nasties like Autopsy, Morbid Angel, Incantation and whatnot. Nor is his umpteenth project, Magescavenger, an alien to that formulaic chasm of gruesomeness and gore, but the interesting fact about the third album under the Megascavenger guise, As Dystopia Beckons, is not only a thematic digression from the Lovecraftian concepts of the previous records, but also minute breakthrough - an animosity in this case - with its odd integument of industrial and electronic influences blending into the seamless old school death metal formula Rogga is so keen on reaping.

This comes as a shocker to me as well, considering the organic and fleshy quality of the majority of his releases, and although this daring repose offers a few breaths of comfort for the seeker of experimentation, Rogga, unfortunately, doesn't implement the stylistic shift with as much meticulousness as you would have liked. The introductory tracks, ''Rotting Domain'' and the gimmicky ''The Machine That Turns Humans into Slop'' explode with fierce, bulbous guitars accompanied by whizzing electronic feedback and tingles, moving into casual industrial breakdowns redolent of Godflesh or Samael at their more experimental, but the riffs retain their trademark simplicity throughout. There is even considerable clarity on this disc, as if somehow Rogga had rectified the gravel and grime of his traditional crusty Swedeath guitar tone with a few buckets of water to wash the mud and cake off, almost as an homage to the development of slightly cleaner melodic death sound. But be sure that the songs rage with uncompromising carnality and hefty slog of chainsaw-heavy guitar work we are so fond of. ''Dead Rotting and Exposed'' is another one of those industrially-tinged bulls that stampede with generic chugs and patronizing spells of industrialized distortion, almost at an attempt to redeem the lack of fresh, sticking riff work on the record. 

Kudos to Rogga for channeling a distinctly 'dystopian' feel, or at least trying to, through the use or reverb, robotic vocal syntheses, and mechanized d-beat rhythms that fluctuate around creepy tremolos and and chord-driven bevies. Force your imagination, and songs like ''Steel Through Flesh Extravaganza'' might just cloud your mind with the image of a gigantic, malicious, electrical saw-wielding cyborg chasing you down the streets of Detroit circa 2025, but at best these songs leave something more to be had, certainly in that they feel inchoate, and most likely because other, excellent death metal bands with industrial influences like The Monolith Deathcult have already played this weird, perfunctory sound to near-perfection. The oddballs across the record, like the Timat-esque ''The Harrowing of Hell'' (with Kam Lee on vocals) and the moody, stringently melodic ''As the Last Day Has Passed'' with its clean vocals and lumbering monotonous chords hardly contribute to the overall quality of the record; if anything, they should be hung up as addendum on a 'bonus material' disc. Fact is, Rogga has proven many times that he is a great songwriter. Peek into an album by Revolting, Humanity Delete, Paganizer, or the fantastic Putrevore and you'll see that my claims are justified. As Dystopia Beckons may be our gateway to a newer, more refined, maturer Rogga, one keeping tabs on occasional experimentation and versatility, but employing naked industrial synths into the traditional formula with guest vocal appearances on every track is almost like proselytizing the listener. It shouldn't come as a surprise that he's running out of material. At any rate, I would love to see him at the helm of another great, pummeling bastion of a brutal, sordid pummeling death metal machine, doted by the sounds of the late 80's and early 90's that we so love, not something as lackluster as this. Decidedly, Rogga needs his gusto back. Prescription: hard-boiled baby Cthulhu tentacles, blood syrup, and 5 hours of mandatory death metal listening every day.

Rotting Domain
Steel Through Flesh Extravaganza
Dead Rotting and Exposed

Rating: 63%

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