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The year was 1993 and I was a 15 year old skate kid whose taste in music was predominately hardcore, thrash, and punk. What little death metal I heard frightened me. So when the colossal groove of Wolverine Blues first emanated from my stereo, it was a revelation. This record, along with Chaos A.D., changed my life, opening horizons of heaviness from which I drank deeply. A lot of people pile-up on those '93 transition records forgetting that they were a generational gateway for myself and many others. Thanks to the Earache/Columbia deal, Entombed was now available at my local mall where before the most underground metal band you could find was Slayer.
Wolverine Blues is also a record that has grown on me over time. Back in '93, it was a gateway drug to heavier music. I enjoyed it because it fused musical ideas that were accessible to my 15 year old sensibilities, mainly headbanging grooves and crusty hardcore punk attacks that bordered on death metal without transgressing over. But once I made that crossover myself, the record faded in its appeal and went by the wayside. Going back to it as an adult blew me away. As my tastes have broadened, deepened, and enlivened, I find Entombed to be a reckless force of barbarian indifference -- they clearly don't give a fuck about you and what you think about what they do. They poured themselves completely into every phase of their career, even their worst fuck-ups. When a large percentage of their audience turned their back on them after this record, they accepted it at once and never looked back. I can admire this ethos even more in hindsight because at the time, the diminishing returns of the two post-Wolverine Blues albums clouded my judgment. It took Entombed from Uprising onwards to find their way again but that doesn't mean I begrudge this record for sending them astray. Why? Because it absolutely fuckin' slays!
'Death'n'Roll' is an essentially meaningless term but I can understand where the impulse to label it such came from. There's a kind of rolling thunder swagger to this record, a certain fucked-up heavy blues sound that defies most people's idea of death metal, a form often lacking in any blues feeling at all. When Lars belts out "My hollow eyes are staring down the hole / jesus, satan, hitler bought my soul / It's rotten and sour but it's inside of me / I've got faith in the end / but you just can't see" it goes deep, to that place of pain pushed past the point of reason and Entombed match those words with vile riffs of dark emotional feeling. Alternating between these blues numbers are several hard man booze brawlers, tracks like "Eyemaster" which starts with an infamous Hellraiser sample over lurching riffs that suddenly transform into outright grind. Or the title track, a brief pit monster with one of the sickest, most memorable groove riffs ever written. Nicke Anderrson sticks loose in the groove too. I fuckin' love that! His swing is Bill Ward level primitive but effective. A complete head snapper, the title track won legions like myself weaned on Helmet but looking for something even heavier. Fuck, "Demon" hits that one-two punch of killer riffs and Lars just bellowing his lungs out. This track is insanely catchy. This whole record is basically psycho-addictive and I've become more hooked with age. No disrespect to Clandestine or Left Hand Path but those records don't feature nearly the same level of individuated tracks: fun death metal yes but the ideas blur together. Wolverine Blues is different: ten timeless gems of scintillating headbangable riffage and a raw primal swagger that runs a gauntlet of styles and tones with ease -- the residual after-effect equivalent to several tons of pure cocaine, a straight-up adrenaline shot and one of my favorite musical experiences.
I know I hold a minority opinion on this. And that there is an inherent generational bias in my abiding love for this album. But I truly feel it can appeal to fans of everything from AC/DC to Autopsy and I cannot see how that is a bad thing. Narrow minded opinions and revisionist history don't appeal to me as much as the direct musical connection. And personally speaking, since rediscovering this record a few years back, I've listened to it pretty much non-stop and will forever do so. Utterly timeless, sickeningly vicious, and heavy as hell, Wolverine Blues tips the scale as a great and enduring metal record.