In a world where Rogga Johansson bounces between innumerous death metal projects like he’s caught in a psychotic game of musical chairs, you have to tip your cap and give the man his proper respect. Juggling Paganizer, Just Before Dawn, Demiurg, Megascavenger and 50 other bands is something few could pull off, let alone as successfully as he does. Now add to the workload Those Who Bring the Torture and it’s clear the man won’t be taking his vacation days anytime soon. Piling Up is the fourth release from TWBTT and it features Rogga on vocals, guitar and bass with Paganizer mate Dennis Blomberg also providing some guitars and bass. The drumming is handled by a cold, inanimate machine. The music straddles the line between vintage Bolt Thrower, Hypocrisy and the legends of D-beaty Swedish death, with flashes of Napalm Death and morose doom cropping up as well. It’s thunderous, pulverizing death of the olden school and the much maligned drum machine gives it a slight Streetcleaner-era Godflesh vibe, which is an interesting touch. Because Rogga does this stuff so well, the riffs are mostly above average and it’s littered with nifty melodic touches, it ends up a tough album to resist. If there’s such a thing as an easy breezy brootal death album, this may be it.
Although all the songs are cut from the same basic cloth of classic death riffs paired with computer drumming, the level of variety amongst the material is surprising. Opener “Under Twin Suns” lashes out like early Bolt Thrower and the fat, crushing riffs pair wonderfully with Rogga’s ginormous death roars for a crushing tune. Even the thudding, inhuman drumming sounds like machine gun fire or a rumbling tank engine and it fits in more than it has a right to. The title track assaults with corkscrewing, Cannibal Corpse style riffs and Rogga compliments them with a Barnes-esque Cookie Monster delivery. “Lifesucker” opts for a style like Prevail era Kataklysm and mixes in some somber doom leads to mix things up.
Elsewhere we get bouncy riffs from the Unleashed school during “Towering Structures of the Damned,” and the opening riff on “A Dead Cold Space” is a real winner and sounds like something Running Wild would pen while hopped up on rum and booty (pirate booty that is).
The smattering of doom riffs that pop up definitely work in the album’s favor. Some sound like they belong on the early Cemetery albums, others are closer to what Grave and Asphyx traffic in. They provide a nice respite from the staccato death pummeling and give the songs a bit of added depth.
Rogga is as solid as ever as both a vocalist and a riff writing machine. He brings a lot of the same moods and vibes he had on the last Megascavenger album and that’s a plus. Since I received no breakdown of exactly what parts Dennis Blomberg performed, it’s difficult to assess his contribution beyond the fact that the overall riffing is solid and enjoyable. There’s also a surprising depth to some of the songs, with little melodic touches that leap out of the chaos after a few spins.
Now, let’s talk about that drum machine. I hate those fucking things and outside of techno and industrial music, I rarely see a point to them. I don’t here either, but this came as close as anything to winning me over. On some tracks, the cold, mechanical clicking works surprisingly well and adds an extra dimension of frigid alienation and unpleasantness much like they did on Inner Thought‘s Worldly Separation album from a billion years ago. On other songs they sound fake and cheesy, especially when they attempt rapid-fire double bass shelling (like the intro to “The Gateway”). They don’t derail the album, but they don’t work as well as they would on a Godflesh outing and I’d have preferred a real, live, mostly human drummer for sure.
There’s nothing new or world eating here, but Piling Up is yet another solid, heavy and meaty death platter delivered with Rogga-tastic flair. Even with a drum machine the music still ends up enjoyable and that says something about the writing acumen. Death heads would do well to check this out, drum machine or not.