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After the nebulous void that was Entombed in 1994-1999, it was time for a swift boot to the ass, an album to kick start the band back towards the positive, creative direction they were beginning to unravel with their 3rd album Wolverine Blues, and though it's hardly perfect, Uprising was such an event. For all intensive purposes, this should have been the album they released in place of To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth in 1997, an effort that both capitalizes on the band's rock & roll evolution and hands out a spanking on almost every track, while conscious that this, after all, a METAL band, not some dull ass alternative stoner rock affair that lost its soul in all the miasma of the misdirected 90s. The tone is actually not all that different from their 'official' fourth album To Ride..., it has the same dirty punk rock luster, only this time the energy of their youth is in fine form, and the band offers 43 minutes of driving punishment that is worthy of cruising (or speeding) around in your car, hunting for cheap liquor or suicide.
The simple aesthetic of the cover seems almost profound, the icon of a band who wishes to strip away all the mistakes and mediocrity of their downturn and get back to basics, what truly matters: the rock. And as the jangling guitars herald the epoch of "Seeing Red", you can instantly hear a re-invigoration which reaches down deep into the testicles and summons forth all the anger and reproach that characterized Left Hand Path, dowsed in a more primal coating of the band's punk rock influence. There are no amazing riffs here, in fact it's a pretty simple tune, but it's compelling enough to get the dry tongue once again salivating for what might come next, and that's the forceful rocker "Say It In Slugs", which honors its killer title with a confident mid pace that reeks of a recent fist fucking (your choice of orifice). "Won't Back Down" is a little brighter and groovier, but follows a pretty similar pattern, with a nice bass injection into raucous hardcore punk. Again, no riffs here that you'll freak out over, but it doesn't require them, its a mindless deposit of energy waiting to piggyback your ride from a highway pit stop. "Insanity's Contagious" is a darker trip to the bottom of the bottle, its neanderthal riffing loud and proud while L-G Petrov splatters his gut-wrenching meditations across the backside of the guitars.
"Something Out of Nothing" casts a Slayer shadow with the thrash descent of its intro, but quickly moves towards a barroom brawl, cowbells crashing and huge tones that squeal in a perfect marriage of rock and metal, compounded by the great, effortless chug-a-long thrashing of the bridge at around 1:45. The cover of Dead Horse's "Scottish Hell" is included as part of this album, a morose piece of depressive rock which feels only natural in the hands of Entombed (it's one of the better covers on their Sons of Satan Praise the Lord compilation of 2002), and "Time Out" kicks in with a strong, curious thrash rhythm that is soon branded by straight up, dirty hardcore rock. The groove that erupts in the middle of this track is superb, very much something they would have incorporated on a Wolverine Blues track. "The Itch" is perhaps the one song on Uprising which closely echoes the band's work on their previous albums, opening with a very Zeppelin bounce (like something Rage Against the Machine might pull), but at least it's not bad, and the consistent guitar tone identifies well with the remainder of the tracks.
"Year In Year Out" weaves a classic, dour Entombed melody through a post punk environment, a brisk and catchy track which helps to steer the album back into the drag race which it started, and "Returning to Madness" is perhaps the most brooding piece on the record, slow but assured as the cruel guitar rhythm gives momentum to Petrov's working man lyrics and howled vocals. When the mutes become chords, the power is enough to rattle your spine, and the break into the thick, oozing bass with the vocals at 1:50 is fantastic. "Come Clean" is another pure roadster, punk engine with screaming little leads and an old school, blues boogie which ascends to its head banging riot chorus. "In the Flesh" is the finale of the core album, a lament sparked through a pair of dueling organs that create a horrific landscape, over which the chords slowly creep forth, the organ melody transforming into a guitar, and a clear Sabbath influence pouring through. It's dark, vile and sufficiently memorable.
Of course, since I've got the North American CD release of this album, it doesn't end here. There are three bonus tracks with varying degrees of quality. "Superior" has a driving drum and start/stop to its rhythms which reminds me of something Helmet might write. Though the ringing guitars and thick bass sound good and dense together, the song is rather a bore, and I can see why it wouldn't be included as an official album track. "The Only Ones" has another thick mudslide of bass guitar which rolls into a violent, bluesy shuffle, and though I like the way the guitars carouse through the tune like drunken serpents, there isn't much payoff. "Words" is perhaps the strongest of the bonus content, but it's not a far cry from songs we've already heard on Uprising, kind of a mix of "Seeing Red" and "Something Out of Nothing".
With 15 tracks of general good quality and lowdown, dirty attitude, Uprising is a huge improvement over its direct predecessor, Same Difference, which was itself really bad. This is the album Entombed NEEDED to put out at this point in their career, and though its not the stuff of which a Left Hand Path or Clandestine was born, it's an acceptable expression of the band's many influences. The lyrics aren't very good, but they do represent the personal, blue collar aesthetic the band was touting. Very few of the tracks would qualify if I were to assemble a 'best of' Entombed mix, but they are consistent and the record is a blast to listen straight through on a sunny, dusty weekend road trip. It's also an early indicator of the band's gradual return to their roots, but this is better exemplified by the follow-up, Morning Star.
Highlights: Say it in Slugs, Something Out of Nothing, Time Out, Returning to Madness