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There are a number of oddities that have continually haunted the memory of metal since their birth in the musically confused realm of the mid 1990s. Granted, there was some positively amazing music to be found if one knew exactly where to look, but this was a period and time where the music media, which still held a tight stranglehold on things, lost touch with what metal music actually was. Perhaps the most perplexing of the bastardized gems of modernity to continually be heralded by many metal institutions, be they reputable or otherwise, is the 3rd studio offering of Swedish death metal maniacs Entombed, a band that essentially ceased to live up to their name and trade when this thing was put out. It isn't really so much a blanket condemnation of the hybrid "death n' roll" sub-genre per say, though this album basically started the craze, but rather a revelation at how the masses got themselves worked up over something that wasn't really terribly innovative when compared to what was going on at the time.
It must be conceded that much of the hype that followed this album was the making of the label and their rather curious promotion techniques (which included lumping the album together with the famed Marvel Comic character that the album title happens to parallel), but that doesn't really exempt the actual contents of this album. In a nutshell, this sounds dangerously close to the same hypnotic, repetitive groove sound that Pantera was milking a year prior to this, though the atmosphere is a bit messier, the vocal sound is a little less exaggerated and still carries some fragments of the classic death metal sound. However, while stylistically the songs are stripped down and not terribly intricate, they tend to be more aloof and unmemorable rather than downright awkward to the point of being offensive the way a lot of the filler songs on "Vulgar Display Of Power" tended to be. At its worst, this album is basically cruising at half-impulse power, and tries to make up for it with somewhat comical lyrical subjects, while the better stuff on here succeeds at being catchy, but fails to quite become the towering mass of greatness that many have made it out to be.
Much like the devilish subjects fawned over in the vocals, this collection of half-hearted bruisers puts its best foot forward with a song that sounds like a left-over speeder from the band's traditional death metal era with a few groovy melodic bits added on in "Eye Master". While the older rock influences are pretty blatant during the slower sections, this still has some brilliant echoes of the "Seven Churches" and "Reign Of Blood" influences that were found on most of the early 90s death metal classics. Unfortunately, things soon start to deteriorate gradually with "Rotten Soil", which coasts around at mid-tempo and seems to want to kick into overdrive, but just never does. One could liken the rest of this album to a rather unfortunate afterglow after a fit of premature ejaculation, as the measured hybrid of chaos and groove gives way to greater amounts of the latter at the expense of the former.
Nothing that is on here comes off as overtly terrible, but by the time the title song "Wolverine Blues" hits the ears, one can't help but wonder when Dimebag Darrel is going to show up for a guest guitar solo slot. To the band's credit, they keep their guitar solos fairly interesting with a slightly more bluesy air that still possesses the early Slayer influences in a more restrained way, but the riff work just gets more and more formulaic and boring as one song goes to the next. It isn't the slowness of these songs that makes them uninteresting, as there was a beautiful set of inspired pioneering death/doom that was soon to crop up during the same time period, but the middle-of-the-road sameness of it all. "Eye Master" is almost an aberration in what is otherwise a consistent display of restating the same basic idea in 9 slightly different variations.
In a sense, the success of this album is understandable given that it tries to parallel the safeness and formulaic tendencies of popular music while keeping some token dangerous elements from its extreme roots for the sake of uniqueness. The part that is difficult to understand is the continual praise it gets from people who would otherwise mock such attributes in present day deathcore and metalcore bands that continually recycle the same riffs that were old news 10 years prior in the Gothenburg scene. It differs from most of those bands in that it definitely had some innovative elements for its time, but it's just not something that really inspires excitement the way death metal normally should. Sure, everybody gets bored of doing the same thing over and over again, but why inflict your condition on everyone else by creating some new that inspires the same sort of boredom?