Leper Colony – Leper Colony Review

Ah, the first week of a new year. A week of renewal. Of bitter resentment at work. Of new Rogga projects. Yes, the grimy foreman of the Swedish death metal factory is back with of course another new project. After releasing—by my rough Metallum count—seven full-length albums with various projects in 2022, Rogga returns this month with Leper Colony’s self-titled debut. Coincidentally, I’ll be the seventh writer to review Rogga for this here site. Might ye despair, lest Rogga sneer at your pleas that he just for once in his life slow down and make the death metal masterpiece that more than one reviewer suggested he’s capable of?

For going on thirty years, Rogga has carved his legacy into flesh again and again with his HM-2 buzzsaw into flesh. After such prolonged, inhuman, Zappa-esque productivity, one might expect few, if any, surprises out of Rogga. Main band Paganizer now will stick largely to a consistently enjoyable, occasionally great melodeath formula. Meanwhile, Rogga’s various side projects will dabble in various other subgenera of death metal, from the eldritch Eye of Purgatory to the Bolt Thrower-infused War Magic. These side projects are always good at a core Swedeath sound and sporadically good at the subgenera elements. Both the side projects and Paganizer are ensured to have notable collaborators (e.g. Karl Willets on Beyond the Macabre). At the end of the day, what you’re gonna get is some flavor of proficient, concise death metal: consistently short tracks that altogether get in and out in under 40 minutes.

Leper Colony adheres to and diverges from these Rogga-isms in the best of ways. Structurally, the components of any Rogga album are there: dimed distortion, a riff rolodex, and tight songwriting. This time Morgoth’s Marc Grewe is the notable collaborator. We’ve also got a particular subgenera of death metal, but the shocking element is how, well, Death it is. Keeping track of all of Rogga’s various projects would require a publication unto itself, but I can’t recall hearing any Rogga project sounding this out of Freedom’s Fistula. Massacre and Death homages pervade Leper Colony’s excellent first half, from the opening lick of “The Surgical Undeadvors” to the mid-Death era “Rapture Addict.” Rogga et co. lean further into an old school sound by embracing thrash trappings throughout. Grewe’s shrieks, snarls, and shouts are in peak form, especially on “The Human Paradox,” but Jon Skäre’s kit battery work is the real glue of Leper Colony. He not only indefatigably powers the band with a thunderous artillery barrage across Leper Colony’s most Slayer-inspired songs (“Tar and Feathers,” “Flesh Crawl Demise”), but also elevates Rogga’s leads (e.g. Skäre’s cyclonic fills on “Human Paradox”). The result is an album that feels far more vital and inspired than one would expect given Rogga’s penchant for productivity.

A comparatively weaker back half and a few incongruous elements hold Leper Colony back, but are not nearly fatal flaws. One of those elements, the Versus the World-evoking title track, is the nearest to Rogga’s Swedeath norm. It’s perhaps my favorite track on Leper Colony, especially with Rogga’s emotive solo, but it’s also quite out of place amid the thrash and old school death cuts. The voiceover in the bridge of “Perdition’s End” is similarly out of place, along with Grewe’s hardcore delivery on “Rapture Addict.” While Leper Colony drags a hair in the back half, these twin speedbumps arguably benefit Leper Colony overall by giving the listener a reprieve even amid the incongruous elements. This reprieve pays off with closer “Gruesome End,” which pummels the listener into submission with a snappy restatement of Leper Colony’s thrash thesis with its searing opening solo and punky drumming.

Leper Colony’s debut is a welcome surprise to kick off 2023. I sincerely hope that this project has legs, as Rogga, Grewe, and Skäre scratch a particularly intense old school itch. Rogga’s magnum opus might need to wait for another day, but Leper Colony is among Rogga’s very best. After a careful inspection of this Leper Colony, I can only give a clean bill of health.1

Rating: ​3.5/5.0
DR:​ 6 | ​Format Reviewed:​ 320 kbps mp3
Label:Transcending Obscurity
Websites: ​lepercolonydm.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/lepercolonyband
Releases Worldwide​: January 13th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. You’re not a doctor! – Doctor Steel
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