Eye of Purgatory – The Lighthouse Review

What more can be said about the indefatigable Rogga Johansson that hasn’t already been said by my esteemed colleagues overlords here at AMG? Holdeneye, Eldritch Elitist, Diabolus in Muzaka, Steel Druhm and Angry Metal Guy Himself have all shared their thoughts about Mr. Johansson and his many side-side-side projects. From his “main” band Paganizer to his self-titled work, from the duo Johansson & Speckmann to the war-themed Just Before Dawn, we’ve reviewed our fair share of this prolific Swedish death metaler’s output. And that only scratches the surface. As we’ve previously pointed out, the man has over a hundred credits to his name, with no hint of slowing down, taking a break or staying hydrated. With that in mind, today we’re taking a look at yet another Johansson side quest: Swedish Death Metal band Eye of Purgatory and their second album The Lighthouse. Serving as just one of at least nine Rogga-related releases for 2021, does this latest, featuring members of Ribspreader and Venom Inc., meet the expectations set by previous outings?

Rogga’s take on death metal was best described by the enigmatic Eldritch Elitist, who wrote in his 2019 review of Johansson’s Entrance to Otherwhere: “Whatever happened to melodic death metal? No, I don’t mean power metal with harsh vocals…I’m talking about classic, knuckle-dragging death metal riffage, paired with somber, melodic atmosphere.” That’s certainly what’s on display here on The Lighthouse. This slab of Swedish death metal brings plenty of melody to the mix, most often in the form of soft guitar interludes, catchy riffs and atmospheric snyths. In fact, from the opening instrumental track “And From the Fog” all the way to album closer “Rebirther,” the seemingly sea-inspired keyboards, courtesy of Taylor Nordberg (Inhuman Condition, Ribspreader), are the unexpected MVP of the album, lending a hefty dose of gloom to that nostalgic buzzsaw riffage. Riffage, I might add, that dual guitarists Rogga and Nordberg are all too happy to wield like mighty, downtuned warhammers, bludgeoning poor, unexpecting lighthouse keepers everywhere.

The synths prove so effective on The Lighthouse because Eye of Purgatory simultaneously refuse to skimp on the heavy. Leading right out of a solid intro, titular second track “The Lighthouse” kicks off with furious blast beats, moody tremolos, death metal roars, and the kind of tasty riffs that to this day make parents in Gothenburg weep. This mix of classic melodic death metal, ethereal keyboards, catchy riffs and blackened elements keep things fresh (for the most part) across nine tracks and a little over 35 minutes. The drums and bass are also spotlighted, performing admirably throughout but also given moments to shine. “They Silently Await” features some truly solid bass noodling by Jeramie Kling (Inhuman Condition, Venom Inc.), while track “Life Slowly Fades” includes some surprising, off-kilter drum work (once again courtesy of Nordberg) that seems to challenge the main riff before cascading into a more traditional melodeath territory. Everyone is on their A-game here, and the results keep this traditional sound (almost) consistently interesting.

I say “for the most part” and “almost” above because there are a few, rare moments where some of the songs tend to meld together, even over the relatively short run time. The Lighthouse is a front-loaded album, with true bangers like “The Lighthouse”, “Fornever to Awaken” and “Carved in a Stone Bleeding” arriving early, stomping your stepdad, and swerving out of your cookie-cutter cul-de-sac after stealing your neighbor’s sports car. As such, the riffs, as buzzy and crunchy as they are, still have a minor tendency to blend into one another over the course of the album. This is most apparent on the back half, where strong writing and interesting instrumentation can get lost in the ongoing maelstrom. This isn’t a terminal issue, and it certainly becomes easier to navigate on repeat listens, but it does dampen the experience somewhat.

So we’re left with the question we started with: does Eye of Purgatory’s latest meet the establish expectations based on previous reviews? I’d say so. This trio have produced a memorable, engaging and brutal melodic death metal album, thanks not only to the seemingly bottomless creative well that is Rogga Johansson, but also to solid performances by both Taylor Nordberg and Jeramie Kling. The case could perhaps be made that Rogga has the capacity to produce a truly excellent death metal opus if he would simply reduce his output and focus on quality over quantity. But if albums like The Lighthouse are the result of his overactive approach, I won’t be the one to make that case.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Website: eyeofpurgatory.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: June 18th, 2021

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