Album Title: Behind The Macabre
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Date of Release: 24 June 2022
Welcome one and all to another instalment of ‘Matt drops the ball’, or as I prefer to call it, my review of Swedish death metal stalwarts Paganizer’s twelfth full length release, ‘Behind The Macabre’. It feels like the more music I review, the more I need to discover, because more and more, I notice great big gaping holes in my knowledge and appreciation of heavy metal in all its forms. Admittedly, straight-up brutal death metal is always going to throw up plenty of examples given my relatively recent conversion to the genre, but to know almost nothing of a band that has been around since 1998 and have a back catalogue longer than my arm is more than a little chastening. Turn it around, though, and the positive is that I have another clear candidate to be explored and added to my album collection.
Enough of that though – let’s get down to business and talk about the latest album to emerge from Sweden at the hands of Rogga Johansson (vocals and guitars), Matthias Fiebig (drums), Martin Klasén (bass), and Kjetil Lynghaug (lead guitars). And what a great beast ‘Behind The Macabre’ is. If, like me, you’re a fan of dirty and pulverising death metal that’s loosely based on the ‘Stockholm sound’ and is blessed with some gnarly riffs and just the right amount of well-placed melody and groove, then pay attention because you won’t want to miss this.
The moment that the spiralling leads duel with a heavy, dirty riff and uncompromising rhythm section within the opening seconds of ‘Down The Path Of Decay’, you can tell this could be a really fun ride. The vocals of Rogga Johansson are deliciously deep and gravelly, just as the ugly music demands, but the pace of the song is varied, from fast sections to more measured and slower groovy parts. And even though the pace never reaches the warp speed seen with other bands within the death metal scene, it’s never meant to. Instead, the angle of attack is in the depravity of the material, as well as the pulverising strength.
Mind you, ‘Left Behind To Rot’ is a generally faster track, full of energetic drumming and fast-picked riffs that come close to knocking on the door of the black metal scene. But again, the pace is cleverly varied, and whether fast or slow, the song is laced with a surprising amount of catchy melody to counteract the heaviness. There’s almost none of that to be found on the hilariously named ‘Meatpacker’ which decides to just pummel us into the ground with sheer strength of the riff and blast beats. Nevertheless, I love the end product because it’s just so unapologetically brutal and groovy in a steamroller kind of way.
If there’s a negative, it’s that there are what feels to be a couple of fillers at the heart of the album, or at least a couple of songs that don’t hit the mark quite as powerfully as others; to call anything a filler on an album as strong overall as this feels perhaps a bit unfair.
Unsurprisingly, my favourite tracks are those that dabble with a little more melody, such as the excellent ‘Sleepwalker’. It batters my ears with a frenzied double-pronged attack of drums and guitars at the beginning before injecting a lot more atmosphere, albeit dark and evil atmosphere which feels intense and claustrophobic. But the melodic lead guitar solo that pierces through the gloom alongside a more upbeat and catchier riff is marvellous.
The closing stages in particular of ‘Raving Rhymes Of Rot’ bring with them a whole heap of enjoyment in the form of rampaging melodies alongside the naked aggression of Paganizer’s more standard death metal depravity. ‘Menschenfresser’ by contrast delivers all of the groove in a song that’s pulverising, but a whole heap of fun too, whether or not it is meant to be ‘fun’.
The unequivocal star of the show, however, is the fantastic ‘You Are What You Devour’. Purists may argue that this song sees Paganizer pushing the envelope too far, but I would disagree for what it’s worth. None of the sheer power and menace is lost, as large portions of this song seeks to attack the listener with ferocity. But this is blended with far and away the most melodic and earworm laden material to be found on ‘Behind The Macabre’. It even features a key change for added potency, whilst the lead guitar melodies overlaying a chugging riff near the end are utterly delicious, especially when blended with a blood curdling scream from Johansson.
If all of this wasn’t enough, the final track on the album, ‘Unpeaceful End’ features a guest vocal appearance from Bolt Thrower’s Karl Willets. It’s a fitting collaboration because the unmistakeable tone of Willets’ growl dovetails perfectly with what is a much slower, more doom-infused death metal stomper of a track that’s also the longest single composition on the entire album.
I fully appreciate that dirty and gruesome death metal won’t be to everyone’s taste, but then what’s new at manofmuchmetal.com hey? I like to bring readers a bit of everything that I like, so expect the beautiful and the ugly to mingle side-by-side. If you’re a fan of the more extreme side of the heavy metal spectrum, I can highly recommend this latest effort from Paganizer because ‘Behind The Macabre’ is a truly excellent album that hits the sweet spot between old school brutality and memorable songwriting. I just wish that I’d dived into death metal more deeply in years gone by because it feels more and more that I missed out on some great bands and super music. Better late than never though, and I’m delighted to have finally joined the Paganizer fan club.
The Score of Much Metal: 91%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: