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Unreal Estate is the 2nd live album from Sweden's Entombed, and a far more interesting product than its predecessor Monkey Puss (Live in London). If not only for the superior sound and interesting track list, which features mostly newer material, it was recording during the band's 2002 performances at the Royal Opera Hall in Stockholm, where the band was accompanied by 30 dancers of the Swedish Royal Ballet, translating the band's death metal rock & roll to a visual medium. Yes, a death metal ballet. And this must be the only flaw with Unreal Estate...because this simply should not have been released with only the audio component. The booklet does feature some great pictures of the events, but it's simply not the same as seeing them in motion to the music.
But, alas, this is an audio product, and as such, it's certainly impressive. The guitars are chunky but clean, and being that this was not your average rock hall concert, you don't get any loud jeering or hissing applause between tracks, lending the material a certain, stilled degree of darkness which increases the effect. The band is also spot on here, with pretty accurate, and largely unfiltered performances, none of the messy bootleg feeling of Monkey Puss. L-G Petrov sounds ominous on this recording, like a prophet of the end times, relating his bitter rock & roll violence to a surely fascinated crowd of both Entombed dopeheads playing dress-up and ballet fans who must have been blown away. The thought of some shut-in ballet/opera snob purchasing a death metal album after one of these performances is more than enough to lube my chassis.
The performance opens with "DCLXVI" from To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth, an adequate piano piece which might have seemed a relief to any showgoers who weren't expecting the aggression to follow. "Chief Rebel Angel" is one of two tracks here to represent the Morning Star album, which was the most recent full-length out in shops at this time. It sounds really good, backing vocals included, and a perfect chugging gait to the guitars which must have been hugely resonant in such a performance venue. The other Morning Star track here is "Mental Twin", with its ominous, sailing octave chords and pummeling bass undertow. A larger chunk of the live is devoted towards material from Uprising. The plodding bass of "Say It In Slugs" is great to ease the audience into the bands harder material. The impossibly thick chugging that opens "Returning to Madness" is a vibrant molasses, and this is another bass heavy offering which must have been a sight with all the ballet dancers. "In the Flesh" is likewise great, eerie organs transforming into the track's dark, murderous blues, and "Something Out of Nothing" fits like a missing jigsaw piece with its Slayer-ific intro rhythm and balls deep rocking edge.
"Unreal Estate" is a fast paced, deathgrind track under a minute long which was included in the performance, and another unique piece is "It is Later Than You Think", an unnerving ambient sequence with voice loops, bells and noise samples. The band also performs their cover of Rory Ericksson's "Night of the Vampire" here, which meshes in very well with the originals they've chosen to include, and I honestly prefer this live version to their studio takes. Closing out Unreal Estate is the sole track from their old days, the extended instrumental bridge of "Left Hand Path", which sounds amazing in this dark, theatric atmosphere, possessing more gravity than most of the rest combined.
It's a little regretful that they did not incorporate more early material to this release, since that one track sounds so brilliant here, and though the remaining songs are good, they simply don't compare in compositional skill. This is only one of the performances, there were several, so it is possible there could be other set lists recorded, but unlikely, as that would have required the ballet dancers to rehearse a lot more material. At least there is a good cross offering of material, and they don't include any of the rock tracks from their two worst albums (Same Difference and To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth). Unreal Estate is a great experience, and I'd be a fool not to be jealous of those who got to participate in it. This is another successful experiment for a band unafraid to cross lines, but it would have been far better had it included the full video, shot in a quality rivaling the audio. I can't imagine having one without the other, but sadly, you'll have to stare at the pictures and use your own imagination.
Sweet majesty! It would have been inconceivable to ponder that Entombed would ever allow their genre defining brand of metal to ever be included in a ballet, but here it finally is, and the result is an awe inspiring collection of music that redefines the bands trademark material in an entirely different approach. It seems that the rethinking of the music contained on this release has done nothing but exaggerate the emotional intensity of the band’s music, bringing a fresh dynamic to classic tracks like the deeply moving ‘Chief Rebel Angel’ and the eerily epic ‘Night Of The Vampire’.
L.G. Petrov’s vocals here could be the most resounding performance wise since the band’s treasured debut ‘Left Hand Path’. ‘It Is Later Than You Think’ provides a wicked ambience that perfectly captures the nature of Entombed, from Petrov’s stormy vox to the trademark guitar tone than spawned a mountain of followers. ‘Mental Twin’ drives with a bottom heavy intensity, while taking on a much wider, sprawling sound than the recorded version. The title track is a blasting frenzy that is relentless minute of sonic mayhem, leading into the pipe organ introduction of ‘In The Flesh’. This track kicks into some gargantuan doom riffing that leads into the gruff vocals L.G. is famous for.
The fantastic thing about ‘Unreal Estate’ is that there are literally no overdubs here whatsoever, giving the listener the impression of being live in Stockholm, Sweden’s Royal Opera Hall firsthand. But this record surely needs no overdubs, as Entombed are completely dead on point at all times, hitting their musical target like a blast from a double barreled 10 gage shotgun. All of the songs were retouched or arranged differently in order to accommodate the dancers and these arrangements have merely strengthened what were some already immensely powerful tracks to begin with.
With the sounds of ‘Left Hand Path’ bringing the album to a close, one is left with the impression that they have been part of a tremendous musical event, the likes of which have never been undertaken by any ensemble so extreme. ‘Unreal Estate’ is a riveting, illustrious performance from the kings of Swedish death that will be a highly entertaining affair over repeated listens. Hail Entombed for opening yet another door in extreme music and expanding the boundaries of metal to even wider horizons.
Here’s a live album with a difference. Always striving for something a little more unconventional, Sweden’s Entombed have released one of the more bizarre, if not entirely gusty ‘live’ albums ever recorded. It seems as though Entombed have never embraced the conventional recording of a live album – they’ve only had one prior to this (released by Earache after severing their contract) and as they state on the liner notes within, they never wanted that one to see the light of day! Now that ‘Unreal Estate’ comes fully endorsed by the band, there’s an intriguing mystery to how well this disc actually works.
‘Unreal Estate’ was recorded live in March 2002 with the Royal Ballet Company at the Royal Opera House, Stockholm, Sweden. This wasn’t just a one off performance, but the last of eight for the first season with four more in the fall. It basically involved Entombed playing a bunch of specially arranged tunes to a packed house of Opera theater toffs with the Royal Ballet Company performing some sort of artistic interpretation to the soundtrack provided. A strange concept indeed, and on the surface involves two forms of art and expression that couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. Incredibly, Entombed played to a packed house every night, received standing ovations and rave reviews.
Listening to ‘Unreal Estate’ is not like listening to a regular live album. Unlike a typical metal gig, you won’t find any crowd involvement here, other than the odd polite applause and the rousing reception afforded the band at the end of the show, which just happens to be a killer rendition of the outro to ‘Left Hand Path’. Don’t expect any adjustment in volume compromises either, this is loud and heavy in true Entombed fashion – the Opera going punters were even given official Royal Opera House earplugs (for the first time ever) to cope with the impending cacophony they were about to witness.
Unreal Estate is a great listen, and the new interpretations of tracks like ‘Chief Rebel Angel’, the throbbing ‘Say it in Slugs, Returning to Madness and Night of the Vampire’ are an absolute treat. However, as good as the listen is, ‘Unreal Estate’ was also performed as a visual concept and as such the audio soundtrack really only works by half. I’d be extremely interested in seeing a DVD release of this in the near future. In its current form, ‘Unreal Estate’ the live album is slightly frustrating because you know there is something else happening but it’s just not tangible. If not only to witness the ballet interpretations (which I just cannot fathom at all), I want to see the faces of the Opera punters when Lars Goran Petrov unleashes his mighty roar at the beginning of ‘Say it in Slugs’. Surely, that would be a sight!
originally written for www.pyromusic.net