Around twelve years ago, I procured a guitar and amp. I messed around for awhile, learning some Iced Earth riffs and some Sabaton solos, but
children life got in the way, my priorities changed, and my skills regressed to nothing. Alas, I’ve still never written the power/thrash/doom masterpiece that I always imagined I would. Contrast my experience with Mr. Rogga Johansson, whose unquenchable need to make music has led to his name being credited on approximately 100 different works on Metal Archives, with three full-lengths and two EPs already released this year alone. As a person who seems to randomly drift from one unfinished project to the next, I am amazed and inspired by Rogga’s ferocious output. Many reviewers of Johansson’s work seem to wonder if he might create even stronger material if he didn’t make so much of it. Well, he doesn’t give a fuck about our wondering, and he’s back with the latest from his oldest active project, Paganizer. Let’s take a climb up The Tower of the Morbid, so we can see how high it goes.
For those unfamiliar, Paganizer specializes in old school Swedish death metal in the vein of Dismember and Grave, and The Tower of the Morbid does nothing to deviate from that course. Rogga employs a vicious snarl, and it’s immensely satisfying when combined with the classic HM-2 buzzsaw death sound. Opener “Flesh Tornado” prefaces things with an air raid siren and accelerates straight to 11 with blast beats and filthy guitars before settling into that classic Swedeath groove we all know and love. Embedded track “Apocalypse Writings” is so catchy and heavy that it made me realize that if there was any justice in the world, a band like Paganizer would occupy the mainstream aggro-metal throne that bands like Five Finger Death Punch have enjoyed. Tower does a good job of varying tempos, with “Redemptionless” going down smooth like a slow-churned vat of viscous hatred and “They Came to Die” employing Amon Amarth style melodeath at the midpoint of the record to break up the otherwise ceaseless aggression.
“Cannibal Remains” grooves mightily, “Purge the World” uses some great thrash riffing, and the title track is the sprawling mid-paced “epic” of the bunch, clocking in at a lengthy 4:19. You’ve heard all of this before, but the vast majority of the album is good, dirty fun. Rogga’s prolific tendencies usually lead to a bit of filler on each release, and Tower is no exception. “Drowning in Sand” and “Rot Spreads” feel like decent Swedeath-by-numbers tracks but lack the seething energy with which the rest of the record boils. Even some of the best songs use noticeably recycled elements with both “Cannibal Remains” and “Beneath the Gauze” ending with the track title growled twice before being repeated a third time with a hearty “fucking” injected before the noun. The latter song had me chuckling every time, because in my day job, I’ve learned the hard way that one should never look beneath the (fucking) gauze if one doesn’t have to — one never knows what might come crawling out.1
The Tower of the Morbid was erected with the industry standard, monstrously loud production. Huge, gut-punching drums and ear-shredding guitars sit high in the mix with Rogga’s vocals, and they all leave the bass in the dust for much of the runtime. But since we listen to Paganizer while we fuck shit up and not while we sit in our armchairs sipping fine single-malts, this really shouldn’t be an issue. There are two kinds of people in the world: fun, cool people, and then people who don’t like Swedeath. If you’re a fun person, you should find yourself enjoying most of what’s offered here. My favorites tracks are “Apocalypse Writings,” “Cannibal Remains,” “Redemptionless,” and “Beneath the (fucking) Gauze.”
In a nutshell, The Tower of the Morbid finds Rogga doing what he’s done before and what I’m sure he’ll do again. But if you happen to like the particular nut that resides in this shell, I think you’ll find it’s worth the crack. If nothing else, it’s inspired me to dig my guitar, amp, and $30 knock-off HM-2 pedal out of the garage and make some terrible noise as I relearn everything I’ve forgotten over the years. Lock up your Sunday schools, because the Paganizer is back and he’s going door-to-door looking for business.