Written by Swatty
Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse
Old School Death Metal from Sweden
Released June 18th, 2021
Via Transcending Obscurity Records
OSDM revivalism is still going quite strong in 2021. Week after week release days are absolutely saturated with new albums from acts either established or nascent that try to offer their own unique interpretation of this tried and true style. Unfortunately, as that trend inevitably collapses under the weight of its own embarrassment of riches a certain sameness becomes quite pervasive. This happened in the mid-90’s and it is starting to happen again now. So when a release comes along that tackles a respected style with something a bit more out of left-field it becomes a breath of fresh air – a little Febreeze to add some olfactory depth to the familiar palette of sulphur and decomposition. Ghastly did it earlier this year with their surprising Mercurial Passages and now Swedish death metal wunderkind Rogga Johansson (solo artist, Morbid Stench, Revolting, Ribspreader, 40+ others) is channelling that same spirit of adventure on his latest opus The Lighthouse under the Eye Of Purgatory moniker.
For those not in the know, Rogga Johansson is a Swedish multi-instrumentalist/songwriter with a bottomless well of inspiration for riffcraft that traverses the entire spectrum of OSDM from straight up Swedeath, death-doom and here with Eye of Purgatory, a refreshing interpretation of mid-90’s melodic death metal. The most obvious comparison to the style he utilizes on The Lighthouse is Edge Of Sanity as is evidenced by his frequent use of simple but hooky melodic passages buttressed with subtle keyboard flourishes. In fact, if I would have to specifically choose an era of EoS that this album comfortably fits in I would say anything pre-Crimson, though there are certainly moments that recall that album and its sequel in vivid technicolor.
Take the opening track “And From The Fog…” – here is a short 75 second hors d’oeuvre that whets the appetite with a very proggy almost laser-like keyboard intro that playfully caresses a mysterious nightscape while dual guitars provide a lovely harmony which introduces the album proper. The melody is so endowed to the masters of the 70s that it wouldn’t be surprising to hear on Dan Swano’s Moontower or Crimson II. This soon gives way to “The Lighthouse” which has an unabashedly ariose tremolo riff which is doubled in the keyboards to provide some sunlight over the ruins. Eventually the proceedings become increasingly sinister as a nice crunchy but simple riff provides the backdrop for Rogga’s vocals as he delivers his cosmic sermon. The keys eventually return to add some nice and airy counterpoint to the straightforward riff salad that no doubt has Dan Swano wryly smiling.
Speaking of riffs they are here in spades folks. Each one is memorable in its own way – from the Slayer worship of the title track and the Hypocrisy homages found in “Fornever To Awaken” to the At The Gates-esque opening guitar harmony in “Carved In A Stone Bleeding.” That particular song is a great example of Rogga’s ability to extend an introductory motif and continue to evolve it throughout the course of its runtime in clever and unexpected ways. Though the riffing for the most part remains lean and direct – it never overstays its welcome and keeps itself interesting by following a variations-on-a-theme structure.
Additionally, Rogga’s and drummer/lead guitarist Taylor Nordberg’s (Ribspreader) prowess on the guitar cannot be overstated. While he is fine settling on fairly rudimentary riff structures and chord progressions for each tune, he will occasionally let Taylor deliver an absolutely blistering solo that torches everything in its path, like the little section at 3:31 in “Pieces Of A Fading World”. Though it is short, the impact on the song is huge.
Taylor’s drumming is a standout player as well, providing paced percussion that allows the euphonic riffing plenty of space to breathe. Even his blasts have a fairly restrained and old school quality that makes all the other sonic elements that much better. He also occasionally surprises with some technical skill such as the opening salvo in “Where Life Slowly Fades” where he blasts in a comfortable 4/4 while he playfully does an interesting cymbal rhythm in 6/8. The juxtaposition of the two meters make the spirit of that song much more frantic.
The real star of the show however is album closer “Rebirther” which sounds like an unexpected marriage of Edge Of Sanity and early In Flames. The driving motif is unapologetically consonant and heavily harmonized while at the same time evoking the spirit of NWOBHM. It never truly leaves that chugga-crunch territory but also takes great effort in helping to bloom a beautiful pathos that peaks during the gorgeous chorus. It is something that I’m sure Swedeath and Gothenburg-metal acolytes would happily don their jester masks for.
Though I have yet to dig deeper down into the Rogga’s overwhelmingly extensive oeuvre I can’t help but be continually impressed by the calibre and the idiosyncrasy that each song presents here. For a man involved with so many projects, you would think a certain diluted effect would occur in the quality as so much great art requires singular focus and dedication to the compositional process, sometimes lasting years. But like Mozart and Bach before him, Rogga is clearly a savant when it comes to counterpoint and can so easily pluck the ripest and sweetest riffs from the ether. Eye of Purgatory have crafted one of my favorite releases of the year, and if you’ve found yourself suffering from a spectral sorrow trying to find a great melodic death metal album in this modern era, then come and bask in the purgatory afterglow that is The Lighthouse.
Other reviews of this album from the net:
Man of Much Metal 91/100
Metal Bite 9/10
Dargedik (Peru) 9/10
Acta Infernalis (France) 85/100
Time For Metal 8.5/10
Metal.de (Germany) 8/10
The Metal Observer 8/10
Musipedia of Metal 8/10
Stormbringer.at (Austria) 3.5/5
French Metal 17/20
All Around Metal (Italy) 3.5/5
RTMB Music (Mexico)
My Revelations 10/15
True Metal (Italy) 78/100
Distorted Sound Mag (U.K) 7/10
Rock Music Raider 6/10
Dioses de Metal
Metal Invader (Greece)
Flying Fiddlesticks Music Blog