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Another colorfully retro death metal album cover and another excellent taste of Razorback Records' ear for quality new artists paying their respects to the classic death and gore metal of yore. Revolting performs a Swedish old school style akin to countrymen Paganizer, Ribspreader, and Repugnant, and it's really no surprise: this is yet another band to feature the vocals of old school Swede guru Revolting Rogga Johansson, who is a member of two of the aforementioned bands (as well as Demiurg, Carve, Putrevore and a host of others). Once again, he's done well for himself. This is quite good; there isn't a moment on Dreadful Pleasures during which I wasn't entertained. The songs are crafted simply and effectively in the vein of old At the Gates/Grotesque, Entombed and Dismember.
"Tenayfly Viper" opens with its grinding and bouncing guitars beneath a noodly and messy lead, but like all great Swedish death it has one of those trademark melodies. "Terror Has No Shape" busts out like total Left Hand Path/Clandestine bliss, and again with the melody. Many of the other tracks follow suite. "Overtaken by the Crawling" has some creepy breakdowns and very evil sounding riffs. "Moonshine Mutation" is one of my favorites on the album, with a classy melodic riff, and "Brainwaves of Death" is also really cool.
Lyrically the band focuses on cult horror and sci fi camp, tracks about freaky monsters and mad scientists. This falls in line with a lot of Razorback's thematic acts like Ghoul and Crypticus, and will certainly please connoisseurs. It's also an easy recommendation if you like just about any of Rogga's other current or past bands. The guy is prolific, I have to admit. Granted, the differences are very subtle between this and some of his other retro styled bands, but it's enough.
Is Razorback Records a good thing? That is a question I have wrestled with occasionally, usually as some damn fine death metal pumps away in the background. The albums that get released by the bands signed to Razorback are all very, very branded, almost unanimously bearing cheesy artwork and corny song titles harking to the heyday of the '80s horror B-movie. What is that, if not a brand. The packaging itself threatens to turn the music into parody, but I did mention damn fine death metal, and damn fine it is.
Take for example recent signing Revolting. Once you're past the questionable presentation, it's all just real good fun. Revolting perform that wonderful trick Razorback bands do so well, creating music with not even a suggestion of any modern influence. From groovy, curling leads on 'Sheetar the Bloodqueen' to the menacing doom of the title track, it all feels very early '90s, recalling the days when death metal could do no wrong, before the scene seemed to flush with the debilitating fever of modernization.
Dreadful Pleasures is only just over half an hour long, a brief and powerful serving of catchy and heavy classic death metal. Vocals are provided by veteran of many bands Rogga Johansson; later in the year of 2009, he would turn his talent to death/ doom with The 11th Hour, but here his growls exhibit the tomblike hollowness of Matti Karki on Carnage's Dark Recollections, and appropriately enough the music often shows the same grooving heaviness. The huge, lowing guitar sound of Grave's Into The Grave is also an influence on tracks like 'They're Not Human.' Like these death metal masters of yore, the verses see the pace accelerating to provide a contrast between tense, epic riffs and blazing drum-led attacks.
The production is perhaps a little thinner than the aforementioned classics mentioned above and, I might add, by the band amongst their influences. This certainly aids the vintage feel better than the album cover which just looks like some horrific Japanese monster porn. It allows the wailing tremolo picked riffs of 'They're Not Human' and 'Moonshine Mutation' to become truly baleful, but fortunately the deeper, slower moments retain plenty of bottom-end thickness.
The only complaint, if it can be called that, is the abject lack of originality. This is one of those bands who make for thoroughly good listening simply by merit of proving the potency and power that can be wielded by a band sticking to a very old but tried and true formula. Rogga plays either catchily repetitive tremolo lines, even catchier throbbing leads such as in 'Overtaken by the Crawling' and 'Brainwaves of Death' or or almost as catchy slow and menacing traditional Swedish death metal riffs. Actually, it isn't really a complaint, as that approach sounds pretty great throughout, simply something that had to be said: look elsewhere for originality. The upshot of this is that the simplicity of the album allows it to flow very well and, combined with its short length, that makes it very tempting for repeat listens.
Old school death metal doesn't have to be unoriginal to be old school (Spain's Graveyard being my proof here) but it also doesn't have to be original to be good. And Dreadful Pleasures definitely has the spirit of the old days. I can say without any doubt, it doesn't disappoint. So yeah, Razorback Records are still a good thing, even a great thing.
After having a ball in 2008 and becoming by far the favorite record label of headbangers all around the world, Razorback have kicked off 2009 right where they left off in 2008. Last year this label single-handedly proved and showed that old school metal is alive and well by putting out release after release each better than the last all of which were in the vein of 80’s death metal by introducing to us bands like Acid Witch, Hooded Menace and Decrepitaph.
This year Razorback has introduced us too another death metal band from Sweden by the name of Revolting. Much like the death metal bands introduced to us by Razorback last year this band like the others play Swedish death metal as it should to complement the Swedish death metal scene for their contributions to metal for Sweden is to death metal what Bay Area is to thrash. Just take a look at the band logo. A melted green grotesque zombie face which is mutilated apart with it’s eyes hanging out of its sockets and hanging by the veins with the band’s name written by the blood which has oozed out from the skull and is in between the face which is now ripped in two parts. Just in case you have not come to know by know they obsessed with the 80’s horror-gore-splatter movies, which must not be a big surprise to those who have heard even a single release by Razorback last year.
The music is a flashback to the early days of Razorback as it is much influenced by early horrordeath metal acts like Lord Gore and Frightmare. However much the music the influenced by these acts it manages to retain a tinge of originality because the band is headed by one of the most prolific death metal composers our time has known, Rogga Johansson.
You enter the band’s MySpace and the words that you first see are, “Rotting, Grotesque, and Putrid REAL DEATH METAL!” and that the band sounds like “The Blob devouring your bones and flesh while you puke out your intestines, blood, and green bile”. This, my friend speaks volumes about the band and the music. The band plays death metal the way it should be played. The songs are catchy, intense, headbangable and fast. Expect no keyboards. Expect no clean vocal sections. Expect no mercy, but expect a relentless assault of putrid death right at your face, chopping and hacking away at a stunned you and you cannot look away.
The highlight of this release, which spans 30 minutes and unleashes 9 tracks, is the amazing work on lead guitars. They sound crisp and release unto us a plethora of riffs of all varieties with the word brutal imprinted at the very core of each one. For guitar solo freak, this one isn’t for you because there isn’t a single one.
The vocals are entirely growls and the lyrics are at times decipherable. The bass is audible at times and doesn’t get lost in the mix. The production is such that the record even sounds like it was recorded in the 80’s and yet there remains a certain hue and tinge of modern production throughout, much like was the case with British thrashers “Evile’s” debut album “Enter The Grave”. Another thing that deserves a special mention is the highly pro-efficient drumming. It goes extremely well with the music and doesn’t hog the attention. It’s not something you’d pay attention to but then again “a true hero is one that does good deeds without being noticed”, eh?
There is no point in discussing each track separately as the album sounds best when heard as a whole but a personal favorite for me are the tracks, “They’re Not Human” and "Brainwaves Of Death". What are you waiting for? Go, get it, get devoured and you’ll enjoy it.
Now just in case you’re thinking this is another regular death metal band whose album you’ll grow out of after a couple of listens, I must tell you, handling vocals and guitars here is the very famous Rogga Johansson who has been an integral part or driving force behind a lot of bands you might have there in your collection, like Edge of Sanity, Paganizer, Deranged, Ribspreader, Demiurg etc. If these names ring a bell, you’re probably already checking your wallet. If they don’t, continue reading.
This is perfectly executed death metal in its purest and truest form right here ladies and gentlemen. Not an ounce of “-core” crap to be found here. While there are still a handful of bands which might be able to offer you some kick-ass death metal, they usually lose marks when it comes to originality. Here you can find just about enough touches of inspiration to keep things real and therefore interesting. There are no randomly shat out blast beats, alterations are made between tempos wherever required. The songs are full of great riffs that go from jackhammer intensity to slowed down atmospheric guitar, overshadowing the slight though noticeable monotony.
The production is polished enough to make all instruments audible, yet raw enough to get you to bang your head. All instruments are perfectly mixed and not once will you feel that the vocals or drums could have been lighter.
Unfortunately there is no vibrant use of lead guitars/solos, but trust me, you won’t miss them either. And after all, solos are not something which will be your first requirement while listening to a death metal record.
The group seems to have enough potential and experience in the field. They are very much capable of writing good memorable and enjoyable music within the well defined framework of death metal and there really isn’t anything more one can ask for.
In 2008 Razorback Records gave us stunning albums like Hooded Menace’s Fulfil The Curse & Acid Witch’s Witchtanic Hallucinations. They’ve opened 2009 with a solid offering like this; I for one can’t wait to see what else they have under their sleeve.