“Even a man who is limp of wrist and enjoys Phil Collins by night, may become a metal god when the riffsbane blooms and the blood-moon shines red light.” – Unnamed Gypsy
The man who annually renders your complaints of “not enough time” null and void by spearheading a million bands per annum, Mr. Rogga Johansson returns once again with The Grotesquery, packed to capacity with classic death metal and riffs a-plenty. Having once more conjured Kam Lee from beyond for another round of retro death metal, fourth record, The Lupine Anathema, embarks on a pseudo-concept centered around the legend of the werewolf. So if you’re in the mood for a little aural slashing and gnashing, then by tooth and claw, this may well be the soundtrack for you.
Like all Rogga vehicles, The Grotesquery wear their grizzley intentions on their shredded sleeves. Riff-centric death metal to bring out the animal in us all, with classic thrash-infused rhythms and a guitar tone thick enough to choke a wendigo. If you’ve heard any of the project’s previous records, then The Lupine Anathema should come as little surprise, but osdm thrives on familiarity more than most, reminding us that with great riff-power comes great riff-responsibility. Kam Lee (Massacre, Bone Gnawer, Akatharta), ever the consummate frontman, utilizes his legendary larynx for these lycanthropic liaisons, offering his always effortless inflection. His snarls and growls are perfectly placed alongside the theme, affording the narrative a truly bestial possibility.
The material certainly doesn’t want for bite – “Under the Curse of the Full Moon” and “Wrath of the Garvules (By the Eyes of Moonlight)” opt for chunky palm-mutes and scything transitions amidst some of Johanssons’s more sinister soloing, while drummer, Brynjar Helgetun, keeps a perfect time with bursts of creative fills and deceptively tight blasting. Mid-album highlight, “The Faceless God,” represents classic death metal at its best; a darkly melodic driving rhythm, eerie lead work and a bridge ripped straight from Massacre themselves. Things never really stray from the beaten track, but the formula does become so increasingly familiar that my interest in the album’s latter half tends to wane somewhat. The recycled tropes are so intimate that similar patterns begin to exhaust themselves as the record continues, although that’s not to say that “Dark Cry of the Wolf” isn’t capable of snatching back some of my attention by muzzling some of The Lupine Anathema‘s jugular drooling with its moody pacing and be-doomed atmosphere.
While Kam Lee’s reputation is cemented thanks to his presence at the birth of brutality, some of his once enviable diction is slightly neutered by a layering effect – no doubt designed to illustrate the duality of man and beast – that sadly just ends up muffling some of his phrasing. Ironically, it’s particularly prevalent on the best song of the album, “By Feral Ways,” which matches some serious At the Gates groove with a thunderous chorus riff. The song is so good, I can just about forgive his pronunciation of “werewolf,” which sounds suspiciously like “we woof”… What I can’t forgive, however, is the total cringe-fest of “Advent of Werewolves,” a spoken word piece that “helps” knit together the legend. It never fails to remind me of the similar intersecting tracks on Resurrections‘s debut, Embalmed Existence. Fortunately, the track isn’t nearly as bad as that ridiculous bullshit, and at one minute in length, is easily skipped.
Classic death metal like The Grotesquery is designed with a ripping good time in mind, and rip it does – limb from limb. Is it predictable? Yes. Can you still like this? Absolutely. Musicians like Rogga Johansson don’t ply their seemingly inexhaustible verve and ability in a bid to reinvent the wheel, they do so to keep it turning and forging ever on. If you’re a fan of the man’s work – and if not, fucking why not – then you probably already know what The Lupine Anathema sounds like. So stop what you’re doing, turn your eyes to the moon and embrace the call of the wild – the beast demands it.