Eating, or looking for things to eat. Boning down, or looking for people to bone down with. Shitting, or looking for music to shit on. The angry metal life devotes countless hours to these simple activities. How Rogga Johansson makes time for even one of these is a mystery. Metal Archives lists The Darkside, the debut of Stass, his project of the month with Crematory‘s Felix Stass, as his 11th release of 2017. That’s far, far too many albums to keep up with, and I know at least one AMG writer has stopped trying. Rogga’s output has been surprisingly consistent, though little of it tends into eye-catching territory. Besides featuring one of the year’s most heinous promo pictures, can The Darkside do anything to standout from a glut of releases that all seem to be circling the same drain?

As expected from the minds behind Crematory and Paganizer, Stass poo-poos any notion of electric melodies or over the top hooks. The Darkside is melodic, but only overtly – it would rather thrive in darkness and discord than soar with the eagles. “Warriors Land” filters light in through the crack in the door, just enough to illuminate the carnage inside. Dripping with malice, Stass brass-knuckle through riffs that unsurprisingly share a good deal of ground with Rogga’s Paganizer. However, Stass often sounds like a more melodic Vallenfyre that swapped out its d-beat grind for Hypocrisy and Before the Dawn pick-me-ups. “The Final Disease” blends some Quo Vadis basswork into the thick Swedish riffing, but the track – and The Darkside in total – maintain a structure that is often predictable. There are a few furtive death/doom chords here and there, but it is mostly up to Rogga’s closing charge to plump up the track.

Stass avoid the grand glossing over that hinders plenty of death albums by imbuing tracks with enough identity to stand apart from one another. Felix contributes to the cause with vocals that remain multi-dimensional despite their crushing abilities. “Forever Blind” rolls a bit of gothic into the mix, enveloping the track in a Peter Steele (Type O Negative)-nee-Paul Kuhr (Novembers Doom) take in a way that feels natural within the scope of the song. Likewise, “Angel of Doom” runs long but deepens The Darkside with the haunting influence of Gregor Mackintosh, evoking Paradise Lost on top of Vallenfyre at times. The record shies away from burying itself under crushing impermeability though, never far from a chorus or a tempo shift. This keeps everything moving, even though you can see the change-ups coming every time. This is where Stass suffer the most. Rogga and Felix make a fine pair, but separately they each covered so much ground that taking on a new genre doesn’t exactly feel new. Their overall malleability keeps the record from growing stale, though individual songs proceed about as expected, with no real curveballs or home runs.

Still, the individual components are capable, from Stass’ juking and diving to Rogga’s dependability to the warm licks of Johan Berglund’s (Demiurge) bass and Erik Bevenrud’s capable drumming. I even enjoyed Kjetil Lynghaug of Paganizer guest-spotting on a few of the album’s solos. Rogga and Felix have some friends in the biz, why not take advantage of them? And for all the bands out there whose bassists are more likely to be found on the side of a milk carton than in the final mix, Stass offers an easy solution: let the bassist handle the production. Berglund’s work lands on the bricked side, but his all-around treatment suits the record well, and no exception.

In a year chock full of mediocre melodic death,1 2 it’s easy to dismiss Stass as another brick in the wall. The Darkside probably won’t catch the eye of anyone who isn’t looking for it. At its core, it’s Rogga being Rogga with a cadre of solid performances around him. However, viewing The Darkside through the lens of an artist who works to live, who simply cannot take a day off, brings with it an appreciation of the craft. The consistency embodied in The Darkside is an impressive feat all its own. It doesn’t hurt that the music’s good too.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Mighty Music
Websites: facebook.com/stassband
Release Dates: EU: 2017.09.15 | NA: 09.22.2017

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Meh-lodeath?
  2. Seriously though, all recs are welcome. It’s been a tough 2017 for this wvrm.
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  • André Snyde Lopes

    Mors Principium Est?

    • Et tu Andre?

      • André Snyde Lopes

        What have I done this time?

    • Brutalist_Receptacle

      IX-NAY ON THE EENIS-PAY

    • Dr. Wvrm

      It was good, but didn’t wow me.

      I also had no idea what you were referring to for the longest time.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Well, you asked, I answered. Anyway, yeah, Embers is par for the course for MPE but that just means it’s already better than 80% of all other melodeath and probably the best in the genre this year. But then again, this year be suckin’.

  • Just including the word “bass” in a review piques my interest.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      In this case it’s not just any bass, it’s Quo Vadis bass!

  • Leonmed

    Wrath Of Belial – Bloodstained Rebellion is best melodic death release i heard in 2017. Nothing else came even close, but then again this genre is not my main focus these days. Seeing some recs would be nice though..

    • Dr. Wvrm

      I was in on it initially but never stuck with it. I’ll have to give it another go.

      What type of stuff do you like?

      • Leonmed

        I get most of my kicks from melodic black metal right now.
        Moonsorrow, Thrawsunblat, Mistur. My best find this year (Thanks to AMG) is a album from 2013. Shade Empire – Omega Arcane. So cool. Album of the decade material. We live in golden times. Heheh

        • ssorg

          I’ll jump in with Havukruunu and Sun of the Sleepless, which have been great this year

    • Grymm

      That was a solid debut.

    • Jeremy Freeman

      It’s good I agree, but the vocals were just to far in the back of the mix. Listen to Scars Of The Flesh, new album. It’s better than both of these imo. Swedes ROCK but this is just good, nothing spectacular.

      • Leonmed

        Haha, i enjoyed buried vocals there. Thanks for rec, will check later for sure.

  • Thatguy

    Yes, the band photo is heinous but the music is a solid OK.

    • Master of Muppets

      While you’re here: I bought an album by The Slow Death the other day after lurking in your library and damn… Damn. That is how doom is supposed to sound, Thatguy taste proves superior once again. Thanks for being you.

      • Thatguy

        Thanks MoM. The Slow Death were so good. I think there is one album I haven’t heard yet, but I’m deferring the pleasure.

        • Master of Muppets

          I only dove into II so far, but it was an instant vinyl buy and I have every intention of exploring them further if I ever get a break from my already exhausting influx of tunes.

  • Nukenado

    Demonic Resurrection, Ex Deo and God Dethroned weren’t bad.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      Haven’t caught the GD yet, the other two were solid though. DR would be in great territory but for its chaff but the Boar and the Prince are jams.

      • Nukenado

        “DR would be in great territory but for its chaff” Errr… I didn’t really understand that line… Did you mean that there were some trash that could be discarded or fat-trimmed? Or am I missing something here?

        • Dr. Wvrm

          Yea, it’s nearly an hour long and I think they could easily have cut some stuff.

          • Nukenado

            Ah, I see.

    • ssorg

      Gods Dethroned stretching the definition of “Melodeath”, but it does have some melodies. And it crushes.

  • Kronos

    There’s a black dahlia murder album due out soon.

    • Master of Muppets

      Dark are the times when BDM might be the saving grace for an otherwise tepid year for melodeath. I know erbody and they mamas loves them some Dahlia, but they’ve always been resoundingly meh to me.
      Plus side, I have like 18 lifetimes worth of black metal from this year alone, and about a third of it’s actually really good. I’m pretty fucking excited to have the opportunity to unleash some TYMHM’s on y’all, I’ve found sooo much excellent music this year and the world needs to know.
      But yeah, been a mellow melodeath year, f’sho.

      • Dr. Wvrm

        To be fair, I fully expected 2017 to be underwhelming. 2016 featured releases by almost every big name on the scene, plus a few out of nowhere acts. There have still been a glut of 3.5-worthy releases from relative unknowns this year, but every peak begets a valley.

      • Kronos

        This guy doesn’t like TBDM!? Leave the hall!

        • Master of Muppets

          I’m always there in spirit. And I don’t actively dislike them, they’re just solidly meh to me.

  • Nukenado

    Rogga Johansson needs a wiki, seeing how he’s more prolific than EA and Activision’s bastard child.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      If there was a Rogga wiki he’d probably run it himself

      • Nukenado

        Hosting, moderating and 50% of the articles.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          All done in his spare time.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    This is Rogga’s 11th release for 2017? How many have you covered at AMG?
    By the way, not only is Rogga extremely prolific when it comes to musical output, but he also takes time to reply to fan e-mail, I can personally attest to that.

  • wayne the devil

    Lobotomy Dept. is also out. Rogga and the brother from Hooded Menace. Industrial/Death in the Nailbomb vein. Just an EP…its’ not bad.