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It doesn’t get much better than this. Everything about this album is done perfectly: the guitar tone, the vocals, the lyrics, the drumming, the song writing, even the goddamn cover artwork. This is my favorite death metal album from what I have seen so far. It’s an album that Entombed never really topped either. They came close with the next one, then had a decent album, then have been putting out crap ever since.
The infamous sunshine studios guitar tone sounds perfect, as is the rest of the production. Unlike many other death metal albums, for better or for worse, this album really has a sense of space, which is reflected in the cover artwork. This is accomplished by the song writing, different instrumentation, and most importantly the vocal effects and techniques. L G Petrov uses what I like to call an “atmospheric growl” for lack of a better word. It was being used before this, at least by Obituary, but this album really perfects it. Essentially, it starts off soft and gets louder and then echoes. The guitars also have an echo to them which adds to the effect of giving a sense of space.
The lyrics are very good as well. Unfortunately, only a few of them are available. I really wish these guys would publish the lyrics as well as the tabs! They also have a sense of humor about the whole thing, but never come across as goofy or just plain silly. They were originally called Nihilist and some of the lyrics really reflect nihilistic values in a humorous sense. In the song “But Life Goes On,” the lyrics right before the chorus are “Continue to seek and you will see/Life is your worst enemy!” This rivals “Wanting to die is your reason to live” (Slayer – Postmortem) in terms of being nihilistic in a funny way.
Let’s have a look at each individual song since each one has something to contribute to the album:
Left Hand Path 10/10 – What a way to start off an album. This song is an epic classic. It starts off with a scream followed immediately by a snare drum hit, giving the impression of someone falling down into the depths of insanity, or perhaps the chasm on the cover. This also sets the precedent for the sense of space the album has. Immediately after, the listener is crushed with power chords that introduce you to the guitar tone and then two mini solos right off the bat to let you know that these guys mean business.
The song continues at a fast pace for a minute and then slows down. This album is full of tempo changes to keep things interesting. Soon after this, we hear the first atmospheric growl, giving a sense of space and atmosphere. Then we hear somewhat of a hardcore breakdown (at least to what my sense of an actual hardcore breakdown is!) Basically, the guitars get really chunky. After another atmospheric growl, we hear a guitar solo, which unlike the lyrics or most other death metal bands, isn’t really nihilistic in an atonal sense, but is rather thoughtful and has a feeling to it, instead of being just plain fast and brutal.
After this the song picks up it’s pace again, throwing little solos at you one after another. Then it slows down again, giving you an atmospheric growl. This is where things start to get interesting. The band introduces the melody which is actually the theme from the movie series “Phantasm.” I believe it’s played on a synthesizer or something, but it doesn’t sound artificial. It sounds eerie and has a latent evil quality to it. This is where the cover comes in handy. They have really captured the feeling of this part of the song in the cover; it’s atmospheric, eerie, spacious, evil, rich vibrant. Take a look at it when you are listening to this part of the song. The left hand path beckons. Apparently the left hand path is a metaphor for the way of the devil or something like that. A close look at the tombstone reveals the epitaph “REST IN FESTERING SLIME.” We are really just beginning going down the left hand path. We are about to find out what hidden pleasures lie beyond, over the bridge, through the strange blue mist and over the horizon.
While we are drawn in by the Phantasm melody, a guitar suddenly slams with a power chord, which gives a different, slower melody over the Phantasm melody with plenty of pick slides, creating an interesting harmony. Soon the guitar takes over and the synthesizer is taken out. This is where the epic solo starts. Once again, it’s not really atonal, but has a real feeling to it. It isn’t technically self indulgent either: it has slow parts and fast parts, but is never difficult just for the sake of showing off. When it’s over, the melody is continued by the guitars, which fade out, but only slightly, so there is actually a last note which gives you a sense of closure and completeness, rather than fizzling out like some 80s pop song by fading into oblivion.
Drowned – 9/10 – This song starts off with a fast jarring riff to snap you out of the trance the last track put you in. Then just as suddenly as it started, it stops for a moment. One guitar comes in with a fast, descending riff which is joined by the second at the end. They play a slower, more open, and not as percussive riff after this. At the end there is a nice pinch harmonic and of course the atmospheric growl. This sense of space created by the slow open riff and growl is contrasted by the suffocating fast riff played at the beginning. This is where you really start to settle into the record.
The song basically switches back and fourth between the fast and slow riff, making things interesting. Near the end it gets really slow and heavy with plenty of atmospheric growls, once again making a sense of space, followed by some good solos. After this the song picks up at full speed again. All of the elements of the song, the vocals, drums, guitars, are going at full speed but then suddenly stop to end the song. I guess you could say at this point the metaphorical drowning is over. After the fast thrashing parts of you trying desperately to swim, and the slow parts of you slowly suffocating to death, your brain has finally died.
Revel in Flesh – 10/10 – This song has such a great groove to it. The simple alternating drum beat is the basis of the song, but it departs from this so many times is various ways that it sort of entices the listener to want it to come back. This is probably one of the best use of alternating tempos and song structures I have ever heard.
The song starts off with some power chords, then the main riff, and then they both come together with the drums. Just try not head banging to this part or at least tapping your foot (I find myself doing the later more, not that it makes it any worse.) The slight stops, the palm muting of the guitars, and the use of the drums are thrown at you in a different way at the end of almost each time the riff is played. This great sense of groove continues into the chorus, followed by a usual brief pause, and then goes back to the verse, back in the same groove.
At the end of the second verse, it repeats the chorus, and then gets really interesting. There is a great atmospheric bridge, supported by the atmospheric growl, then some great guitar effects with an overdrive pedal, some whammy bar, and reverb. After this, we have another great hardcore breakdown for the second part of the bridge. It’s really chunky, then gives a power chord in place of two chunks of guitar, followed by some melodic riff work to round it out. This interestingly makes your head hang on the down swing, since there is an emphasis on the last part.
At the end of the second part of the bridge, Petrov growls REVEL IN THE FLESH which is a great way to kick off the awesome solo. Just try and not play air guitar to this one. At the end of a thoughtful and melodic, yet uncompromising solo, it once stops for a moment. Then it stops for another moment. They are just playing with you now. They know you want to hear them main riff again, since it has such a great groove. It finally does and Petrov reinforces it with a perfectly used grunt. Yet they still make it interesting. After you hear the riff three more times, they use more palm muting and a different drum pattern to make things interesting, and then it falls back into the groove. The groove continues to the end, giving some different drum patterns and then finally a scream by Petrov and then the song ends with a tremolo bar crushing the last note and then letting it back up again.
When Life Has Ceased – 9/10 – A drum fill starts off this song followed by a great sense of groove similar to the last song. Just try and not head bang to this one either. Once again, the atmospheric growl is used. The first line of the lyrics is “when life has ceased” which just seems delightfully morbid to me and is repeated at various points in the song. It then goes to the chorus which is moved on by some great grunts (“ye-uh”.) It goes back to the verse again, then the chorus. The bridge is up next which is slow and heavy. It gives you six notes, and then plays them again with the drums reinforcing them to make them more brutal, a technique really used best in track 8, “Morbid Devourment.”
The song then picks up a bit, then slows down even more, with the usual atmospheric growls. It then picks up the pace again, followed by some good solos. After the solos it continues on, seeming like it could end at any second and then finally does with a grunt that is echoed and gives it a good sense of finality.
Supposed to Rot – 8/10 – This song if pretty short (only about two minutes long) and has a pretty good sense of groove like the last two songs. It starts off with the drums then an interesting riff, then a little fill, followed by the main riff. The verse continues on followed by the chorus, which is introduced by Petrov growling “you’re supposed to rot.” Once again, Entombed show their slightly humorous take on death metal. He says it again to introduce a sort of non solo, which is just a trill note on the guitar. It then goes back to the verse, followed by a brief pause, then Petrov growling “your supposed to rot…yea”, which ends the song, sort of. The tremolo bars are used to modulate the pitch and show off the guitar tone at the end, much like the end of Revel in Flesh. I think they mainly used this to put the song over the two minute mark though.
This song doesn’t have as much to offer as the songs preceding it, but it’s certainly not annoying or boring by any means. It’s still has a good feel to it, and is kept short since the ideas behind it are relatively simple. It’s strategically put here because the next song is so damn good.
But Life Goes On – 10/10 – This is one of Entombed’s first songs. It’s really simple, but it’s a lot like Mutilation by Death, or Black Magic by Slayer, or Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath, in that it’s not the most complicated or even best song that they have written, but it really gives a great sense of the band’s sound in one song.
It’s one of those no nonsense songs that doesn’t start off with a drum intro and doesn’t have any time changes, but is great in a simple way. The riff is chaotic in a way and is basically a lots of notes play really fast in an atonal fashion reinforced by power chords at the end. For the most part, it follows the traditional verse/chorus song structure and doesn’t have many tempo changes.
Most of all though, the lyrics make this song. Fortunately, they are readily available on this site. “But why should I go to heaven /And who's to say I'll enter HELL”, with the two power chords emphasizing HELL! This is followed up by the first chorus, which doesn’t give you the best part of the song right away, but then goes back to the verse, and then the chorus again. This time at the end, the phrase “Continue to seek and you will see/That life is your worst eneMY!” It’s so cheesy, but there is such an eerie sense of calm in the moment between the two phrases, and such utter conviction in how it is said. Sure it makes no sense, but you can still get the idea of what he is saying. It can also be viewed as nihilistic since it makes no sense. Petrov also screams the last syllable, which I am having trouble replicating really, but is still fun to sing along with. This line can really be seen as the apex of the whole album, which is pretty much in the very middle of the middle song. If there was an Entombed shirt which said “Continue to seek and you will see…” on the front and “Life is your worse enemy!” on the back I would buy it.
After this, there is a great bridge, with the obligatory atmospheric growl, followed by the solos. At the end of the solos, the main riff is reintroduced and the verse starts again, it ends again with instead I’ll enter HELL” and then the chorus with “Life is your worst enemy” again. This time, the last syllable is sort of turned into an atmospheric growl, since it starts off soft and then gets louder. This is followed by a quick interlude with four ascending riffs and then a satisfying grunt to end the song.
Bitter Loss – 10/10 – This song starts off with some power chords, joined in by some melodic riffing, and then, like some many other death metal songs with were probably influenced by this, the obligatory bass mini solo, which is used perfectly. It is followed by a power chord, and then it gets into a great groove. I always get this song confused with Revel in Flesh since they both have the same great sense of groove.
There are plenty of small little halts in the tempo, just like Revel in Flesh. It does this through the first verse, then also in the chorus. It settles back into the second verse. Once again, the lyrics aren’t available and hard to decipher, but I know one of the lines in the second verse is “rip you all to shreds!” which is delivered particularly well.
After this it goes into the bridge, which has a few good grunts here and there. It then goes into three or four more different bridges which shows the complex winding song structures this album has. Over one of these, it gives a good solo, then lulls for a moment, then gives a really great melodic solo. During this solo, I find myself equally intrigued by both the solo and the riff that supports it so I find myself listening to on and then the other.
After this it settles back into the verse, after a brief lull, which basically brings it back home. At the end Petrov, keeps repeating what I think is “It’s just a momentary loss,” but of course I am probably wrong since the lyrics aren’t available. This is followed by some melodic riffing. At the end off each riff, it seems like the song is going to end, and then after three times it finally does with an extra power chord at the end.
Morbid Devourment – 9/10 – The song starts off slow and heavy with an atmospheric growl, then it suddenly stops completely for a second, then it comes back with the tempo increased by the slightest amount. Once again, you want to headbang to this since it has such a great sense of groove. It eventually slows down, then speeds up. Next it pauses and gives us nine notes played twice each in so it’s more of a tremolo type thing, which set us up for something interesting later. It then goes back to the main groove, and then back to the same nine notes again. Right after the nine notes are played the way it was the first time, two each, and then Petrov yells GO and the notes are now power chords played once each and supported by the drums so it gives you more of a sense of getting punched in the face. They go back to playing them tremolo a couple more times, with a good scream, and then suddenly slow it down, then pick up the pace slightly and add a blast beat. This is followed by the solos ending the song, then an interesting “bleh” which is echoed to give a sense of space and an ending to the song.
Abnormally Deceased – 8/10 – This song starts off slow and then picks up the pace. This song doesn’t have as much to offer really, but a nice “DIE!” keeps you engaged. It’s pretty much the typical verse/chorus/solo structure, and isn’t really bad, but it doesn’t have much going on that is special like the other songs.
The Truth Beyond – 9/10 – This song is somewhat epic, like the first one and is a good serves as a bookend like the first to keep things memorable. It starts off a little slow then has some nice dual pick sliding action and then picks up the pace. This song gives an intelligent critique of organized religion, and fortunately the lyrics are available, but it sort of shoots itself in the foot when it talks about dissecting Jesus Christ, which is fine by itself, but I was hoping that the whole song would keep the theme of being critical but instead mixes in some brain dead gore, which once again is fine on it’s own, but sort of undermines the song here.
Carnal Leftovers – 8/10 – Here we have the first bonus track. This song has some time changes and is pretty good, but doesn’t nothing really worth pointing out.
Premature Autopsy – 9/10 – ATTENTION CANNIBAL CORPSE FANS: This song has the riff that Cannibal Corpse ripped off for their number one hit “Hammer Smashed Face!” Listen to the two songs and compare the main riff. They are damn near identical. This album was released AT LEAST two years before Tomb of the Mutilated, so it’s obvious that Cannibal Corpse ripped this song off, like they rip everything off. It’s also interesting that it’s pretty much Cannibal Corpse’s best, most notorious song and for Entombed it’s just a bonus track. Yet at the same time Cannibal Corpse is more popular. Life’s not fail I guess.
I do appreciate how CC did give actually point out that the riff sounds like you were actually pounding someone’s face in, but Premature Autopsy is still a pretty cool name. Entombed also use a different vocal style here. The vocals sound more processed and it gives some nice variation from the same voice you have been hearing the whole album. It’s a pretty straightforward song with an interesting scream at around 2:05 that gives the album a great sense of finality. It continues on for a little more, with some good grunts and some good solos and finally ends with a lull and then a crushing power chord.
So there you have it. Looking at the other reviews, it seems that not enough people have this album, so more people should get it. It’s pretty much a buy or die situation.