It’s been a while since I’ve reached into the Grymm Grab Bag™ to review my next band, and this review doesn’t change that. Y’see, sometimes, like with Tom of… err, TOMB of Finland, the name alone just screams to be reviewed. This case, though, it was AMG himself saying, “Hey, Mr. Dan Swanö produced this.” Dan is a very talented mult-instrumentalist, a gifted songwriter, and the producer of some of my favorite records. So, I like Dan. And Dan produced Malevolence, the second album by German death metal machine, Rogash. When the Boss asks you to check something out, then damnit, you listen!
And it’s a good thing, too. Malevolence is what would happen if you were to take Scandinavian death metal, and inject some mid-90s groove metal into the proceedings, kinda like a pit-inducing Reese’s peanut butter cup accident. But before any of you gripe about getting Dismember in your chocolate, or peanut butter all over your Machine Head, I urge you to approach second track (the first is an intro), “To The End,” with a fairly open mind. I say “fairly,” because it won’t take long before you get sucked in to the song’s ripping speed and its heavy groove. Guitarists Rico and RT obviously studied equally from both Like an Everflowing Stream and Burn My Eyes when constructing the riffs, as there’s equal parts Swedish melody and American groove on here, and it doesn’t once feel contrived or half-assed. Thankfully, vocalist Erik avoids the trappings of many nü-metal artists by staying away from rapping or trying to act tough, instead keeping to a very powerful guttural roar throughout. While not the most original sound, they inject an infectious energy with enough conviction to keep you glued.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “That’s great, but do they keep at it for the album’s length?” And all I can say is “you betcha!” All of the songs have a heavy New York hardcore feel to them, but Rogash pepper things with small dashes of speed when necessary. “Fortunes Fangs” offers up some early Dying Fetus groove in hefty amounts. “Buried in Oblivion,” probably the closest the band comes to pure death metal, tears right out of the gate with sheer abandon. The one track that hooked me in to Rogash‘s groove-infested world would be “None Shall Prevail,” combining Swedish hooks, uncomprimising American heaviness, and a pre-chorus bass and guitar hook that put a huge smile on my skeptical face, wishing I had a pit to open up of my own.
A few things are keeping me from giving Malevolence a full, ear-ringing endorsement. As usual, Swanö did a great job with the sound of the guitars and especially that bass tone (good GAWD), but at the detriment of the drums, where they sometimes get buried due to the guitars and bass being so damn in-your-face all the time. It’s a shame, really, as prior Swanö-produced Grymm-endorsees Vainaja have proven that you can have a fuller dynamic range, and still be heavy as hell. The other bone of ill content would be the songwriting itself. Putting it bluntly, it all sounds the same after a while. Thankfully, it’s an enjoyable album from start to finish, but more variety would help matters significantly. Sweet job on the cover of Sepultura‘s “Refuse/Resist,” though!
For all the complaints that I have, though, Malevolence got me moving like I was 20 again, and that says something. These hooks are massive, the groove is insane, and Rogash could end up taking pits around the world over by storm pretty soon. Keep an eye out!