Artist: Eye Of Purgatory
Album Title: The Lighthouse
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Date of Release: 18 June 2021
I’ve referred to some artists in the past as workaholics or obsessives that deliver more music than you might think possible in the given timeframe. However, none of these even come close to the Swedish guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Mr Rogga Johansson. Arguably best known for his involvement with the band Paganizer, the guy is insane because his list of projects, appearances, and releases is seemingly endless; a quick count on a trusted website suggests Johansson is involved with upwards of thirty current entities, from self-titled releases to the hilariously named Fondlecorpse, not to forget Revolting and Human Delete to name just a few.
However, it is Eye Of Purgatory upon which the gaze of this review settles. More specifically, the sophomore release entitled ‘The Lighthouse’, for which Johansson is joined by drummer, lead guitarist, and keyboardist Taylor Nordberg alongside bassist Jeramie Kling. Formed in 2018, the debut release, ‘The Rotting Enigma’ was a much more solo affair with Rogga Johansson responsible for everything, but this time it is a more collaborative affair despite Johansson retaining his ‘leader’ status overall.
Within moments of the title track blasting out of the speakers, you are left in no doubt about the origin of Eye Of Purgatory. Those ugly, buzzsaw riffs are glorious, whilst screaming ‘Sweden’ at the top of their six-string lungs. There’s a definite harkening back to the glory days of Dismember and Entombed in the way that Johansson and Nordberg attack right from the off, leaving the listener in no doubt that they have entered into a bludgeoning 35 minutes of brutal death metal with old school tendencies. It also helps that Johansson’s gruff growl is deep, resonant, and full of gritty malevolence, the perfect foil to the music as far as I’m concerned.
But what Eye Of Purgatory do so well is blend this brutality with some strong melodies, at the hands of the lead guitar lines, but also from the keyboards again courtesy of the impressive Nordberg. They are not overdone, but at points within the title track, they come to the fore to deliver an atmospheric and memorable melody that adds a touch more depth to the music. If you’ve ever heard the album ‘Moontower’ by Dan Swanö, you’ll recognise the kind of sounds that Nordberg laces the Eye Of Purgatory material with here. Ok, it’s nowhere near as pronounced, but it gives you a decent reference point. It also helps that the drumming (yes, it’s Nordberg again!) is a nice mix of uncompromising blastbeats and more subtle, groovy playing. Not to be outdone, the bass of Kling rumbles powerfully at the heart of the material, occasionally hitting notes so low that they are barely audible despite the solid production afforded to ‘The Lighthouse’.
With their colours nailed to the mast, Eye Of Purgatory simply carry on in a similar vein for the remainder of the record, a record adorned by some striking artwork courtesy of Juanjo Castellano. ‘Forever To Awaken’ is blessed with some bruising riffage alongside a few more ostentatious lead guitar lines and breaks, whilst the keys are once again a delight. The melodies are not quite as immediate as the title track, but I like the blackened, fast-picked riffs that are interspersed within some properly groovy six string action that gets the head bobbing in appreciation.
Then there’s the truly magnificent ‘Carved In A Stone Bleeding’ which opens up with the briefest of clean guitar melodies before launching into a wonderfully hedonistic heavy melodeath track, full of intensity and epic intent. The juxtaposition between slow, lumbering groove and high-speed attack is masterful. But the real magic is the way that there’s space allowed mid song for a complete change of pace courtesy of an elongated reprise of that fleeting clean guitar intro. It is gorgeous and demonstrates that properly heavy melodeath doesn’t have to be all-out aggression at all times. Indeed, these changes of pace and intensity only serve to heighten my personal enjoyment of the material.
Another strength in a long line of strengths with ‘The Lighthouse’, is the way in which the songs really get under the skin with repeated listens. On a first spin, the quality was obvious. After a few days in its company, I can only attest to the fact that the music becomes more addictive and satisfying. Songs like ‘They Silently Await’ and ‘Where Slowly Life Fades’ are both perfect examples of this, the latter capturing my imagination through its blend of ferocity and elegance, not to mention a lovely dollop of crushing groove. It’s odd because on the one hand, the heaviness and the brutality really appeals to the 17-year-old me, whilst the subtleties, melodies, and clever variations hit the spot for me in the here and now. Mind you, such is the power and quality of ‘The Lighthouse’, that had it have been released twenty years ago, I am left in no doubt that it would have had the same effect on me as it does today.
Every time I listen, I’m unable to wipe away the goofy grin that appears unbidden on my ugly mug. That, above all else, proves to me that I’m listening to a very good album indeed. If you are searching for a melodic death metal album that’s as nasty, dirty and heavy as it is melodic, then your search is over. ‘The Lighthouse’ by Eye Of Purgatory is the record that you require. Buy it, listen to it, and thank me later.
The Score of Much Metal: 91%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: