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Back, but in a very vicious style - 70%

Lane, March 6th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Century Media Records (Limited edition, Digibook in slipcase)

I really got into Entombed during the first half of 1990s, when they released their first three legendary albums. Yes, even the infamous 'Wolverine Blues' (1993), which was one of the pioneering death 'n' roll albums. In the second half of the same decade the band released two less heavy albums and I didn't find them very interesting at all. After that, I never discovered the old zeal to them again. Then came the split between vocalist L-G Petrov and the guitarist Alex Hellid, who both were original members...

See, Entombed was cursed to be one of those bands, whose members had a dispute. Thus, Entombed A.D. was born in 2014, fronted by L-G. Bass player Nico Elgstrand and drummer Olle Dahlstedt, who played on the last Entombed album 'Serpent Saints - The Ten Amendments' (2007) followed him. The rough-voiced vocalist didn't ditch the music he had performed for two decades. So, death metal and thrash metal with punk edge and rock stuff is what's on offer!

But alas, this album isn't in the front of the offensive line, sadly. There's two main reasons for this. First, the sound doesn't really bite. It sounds organic, but also like some rougher edges were smoothed. The drums get repressed under other elements, and should have boosted up a bit. The guitar does buzz and is low-tuned, but feel tidied up; it sounds foggy. Add to that some not that hot songwriting and performing, and at times the album simply feels powerless, lame. However, I find it strong enough when compared to the Noughties' Entombed albums, and especially those two which had more of a rock approach to them.

Alex Hellid's guitar style was emulated by Nico Elgstrand (yep, he swapped his bass for a guitar, then), but there are some average riffs. I'm not saying that Hellid's work is all perfect, no, but some of this goes in one and and comes out the other. There are both simplistic and more multifaceted riffs. Some great stuff can be heard, like 'Eternal Woe' and fast 'The Underminer', among other, so this is hardly a letdown. Mainly, what we get is horror-themed riffage and lead guitar work. Some piano and acoustic guitar stuff were added for atmosphere, and work okay.

At first, I remember I was bothered by mid-paced start of the album. On the third song, 'Pandemic Rage', D-beat is finally in! And 'Waiting for Death' is a Slayer pastiche, if pretty good one at that. Also slower, doomier approach happens, and here it is Runemagick that comes to my mind; but it's nowhere near funeral doom tempos. Anyway, this is mainly mid-paced, and it makes the album feel a bit jaded. There are things that intensify the power of the music at times. First, fast if not very memorable guitar solos bring in some action. The drumming is rather varying; double kick drumming, thrashy beats, D-beat, all kind of rock drumming bits... But also some limping moments. The bonus track of several editions, 'Gospel of the Horns' is like dirty version of Ghost; horror vibe and catchiness mix in this song, which was made for a bonus track, not for the album itself.

L-G's vocals are still very much able. His growl is mostly low and bear-ish here. Maybe it's because of his age, that his trademark screams and roars have drastically dwindled here. He did it all in old style, as everything else is done, too. No missteps into modern styles on this platter. Even the production carries a feeling of timelessness.

While 'Back to the Front' shows the band were alive, it still feels like they weren't firing on all sylinders. Maybe it was a long time in the making? I also wish it would be more catchy; it just does not grab by the throat and force itself in. It is too tame. However, Entombed fans need to inspect it. And perhaps those, who want death metal done old way.

(Originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)

A pleasant surprise - 81%

Cause of Death, April 24th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Century Media Records

You know, given all that's happened in the past few years concerning Entombed (read: nothing), it's difficult not to conjure some genuine respect for L.G. for his attempts to keep the band alive. While this lineup features none of the classic members, aside from L.G. himself (though the track "Vulture and the Traitor" was composed entirely by none other than original Entombed mainman Nicke Andersson), the circumstances that surround the situation concerning Alex Hellid make it completely understandable, in my book. But despite that, all the drama is meaningless in the end. The only thing that actually matters is the fuckin' music. So...does it stand up?

Well, surprisingly...yeah. For a very long time I (and most others, I assume) had been hoping for the band to return to their OSDM roots, with a complete and total throwback to the band's glory days (first two records). And while that didn't really happen, I can't say I'm completely against what we ended up getting. Fans can breathe a sigh of relief, because this isn't really a "death n' roll" album either. The exact style is difficult to accurately describe, it's much heavier and far more riff-centric than anything the band has released in years (not to mention the dark and moody vibe that permeates most of the album), but there's still a focus on catchiness and a sort of "swing" to the music that isn't really found in standard death metal. I guess the most accurate description would be some strange mixture of old school death metal and traditional heavy metal. It's original, I'll give them that!

And more than anything, it's simply the most solid thing the band has released in fucking ages. No, there is no experimental garbage like "Mental Twin" or joke track like "When it Hits Home" to ruin this album, everything feels pretty serious and to the point, without any notable dip in quality. Rather, you might be shocked by just how good some of this stuff is. The track "Digitus Medius" for example, features some extremely catchy and powerful riffs, some of the strongest on the entire album. "Second to None", probably the most "death n' roll" track found on the album, manages to throw in a ton of heavy-as-balls riffs that pound at the listener's head like a jackhammer. "Pandemic Rage" is a full on, straight ahead death metal track that is not only heavy as fuck, but also puts forth a very dark, moody atmosphere in it's powerful chorus...and how could anyone forget the best track of them all, album opener "Kill to Live", the verse riff of which is probably my favorite riff on the entire CD.

L.G.'s vocals aren't quite as monstrous and powerful as they were in 2007, when he recorded the "Serpent Saints" album, but I think there's something appealing about the tone and vocal delivery he puts forth here (sort of a "death metal Lemmy" I guess). It's far from his crowning achievement, but at least he's growling and that should be worth something (we'll all remember that there was a very long time where he was merely shouting).

So all in all, is this a perfect album? No. Is it flawed? Eh, not really. There's nothing I would change, that could make it better. I feel like it achieves everything it sets out to do, and at the end I'm glad I bought and listened to it. At the very least, this is some new Entombed to listen to (the first since 2007!), and it sounds better than anything the band has done in years, so there's really nothing to complain about. Even though I'm not crazy about the band's work post-"Clandestine" (their last fully good album until this one), I think that this is a pleasant surprise for anyone who considers himself a dedicated Entombed listener.

Back to the Front - 70%

Daemonlord, March 23rd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Century Media Records

I must say, I have mixed feelings about this whole Entombed saga. For a start my prediction of a reformation of Nihilist for a few gigs has yet to come into fruition, but in less selfish terms, generally these whole band disputes over names never end pleasantly. Anyhow, a little backstory for those unaware – ‘Back to the Front’ was meant to be released as a straight up Entombed album last year, but due to LG Petrov only being the sole surviving member (after Alex Hellid left the band), a dispute was raised and a decision was made that the Entombed name could not be used for the foreseeable future as it is owned equally by the 4 original members. Thus, LG and co. decided that one quick add of an ‘A.D’ to the name later, a new (pretty childishly drawn) logo and then finally 2014 gets to see the release of the debut(!) of Entombed A.D…

So, I know what you’re all thinking. “What does the A.D. stand for?”. Well, it could’ve gone either way depending on the quality of the album. If the album was shit, it’s ‘Entombed (Appeal Diminished)’, whereas if it’s great, it’s ‘Entombed (Added Definition)’. For me, it’s just a couple of letters to stop a lawsuit – you load of numpties. Anyway; less crap talking and onto the music. Obviously there is a large Entombed influence on the sound here, and being a huge fan of all eras of the band (yes, I even like ‘Same Difference’) I really like a lot of it. However, it does seem to be missing something at times. For me? Those Hellid riffs. Yes, the distorted guitars sound like Entombed, but with LG as the only original member, the riffage is not Hellid’s, and for me that is the major shame. That guy could shit killer riffage, but here it’s just missing his touch I feel. That’s not to say this is a crap album, because not only do I love the hell out of LG’s voice, but there is still some killer songs and plenty of neck snapping to be done throughout.

Opener ‘Kill To Live’ starts with a gentle, horror film score style intro, making way for the recognisable Entombed sound, wailing guitar solos and ever building mid-paced riffage and pounding drum work. ‘Bedlam Attack’ sees Entombed A.D. at their finest, pounding with d-beat drums, that filthy guitar tone chugging like a diesel spewing chainsaw gnashing at your speakers. ‘Second to None’ sounds like an out-take from the ‘Uprising’ album, chugging a simple but very effective riff to its very limits, before drilling firmly into a rigid chorus which stands firm and square of jaw. ‘Bait & Bleed’, whilst sounding like a Slipknot song title, starts out with a winding yet eerie guitar intro, before the usual mid-paced trademark riffage sets hold once more, breaking loose every now again into punkish spikes of speed. ‘Waiting For Death’ is one of the faster songs on the album, whilst being uptempo doesn’t really break much of a sweat in sheer speed terms, but makes up for it with some ripping solos. Album closer ‘Soldier of No Fortune’ begins with a gentle acoustic intro before swaggering with a great grooving riff the size of Europe, pounding the last life out of your exhausted speakers.

As a whole, I’d probably say this album most closely resembles a cross between ‘Morning Star’ and ‘Serpent Saints’, so for those expecting a return to their pre-‘Wolverine Blues’ days – stop holding your breath. It’s a worthwhile album which is worth any Entombed fans attention, but if you’re a casual listener to their works, this isn’t going to do much to suddenly have you swooning at their feet. For me as a long term fan, this is as good as I expected after the 7 year hiatus after ‘Serpent Saints’. Worth a look!

Originally written for www.avenoctum.com

Uprooted and ready to roll - 85%

autothrall, August 5th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Century Media Records

It's always a shame when a long standing, relatively successful metal band like Entombed begins to unravel. Soon it gets ugly, the fans have all picked their sides, begrudge the future output by the members and fans from the 'opposition', and suddenly it feels like fucking junior high school instead of heavy metal music. Well, I already graduated from such an institution, and have no desire to return in this life, so whether I approve of the actions and/or statements of this or that member/expatriate of a band, it all comes down to the goddamn music. At the end of the day, I decide whether or not I enjoy a record based on the value of the record itself, not the questionable business ethnics, practices, politics, religion, or history of the roster. So Entombed A.D. might not be the 'real' Entombed, it might not be Clandestine II, it might be frowned upon by some of the founding members of the original band and their followers, but I'll tell you what it IS: a good fucking time. Not the best material they've written by a sizable margin, but if you've ever thrown down and enjoyed their death 'n' roll style circa Wolverine Blues, Morning Star, or Inferno, then this really hits the spot.

No, Back to the Front will not do what it's title might imply and thrust the Swedes back into the death metal spotlight, nor will it reel in those who fell out of touch with them after the first two albums, but these four guys had a collective contribution of about 45 years with Entombed, so if anyone's gonna be able to produce a relatively faithful continuity for what the original had been releasing since what I'd consider their 'slump' era (1997-99), it is this quartet. I realize there was a marginal chance we might have been getting something more akin to a successor for Left Hand Path, and perhaps that is where the other founders of the band might head, but this disc represents their strongest songwriting since 2001 and Morning Star, a blend of death, d-beat, punk, crust and thrashing rhythm guitars which affix their simplicity with reliable hooks and concise structure, but retain a lot of the ugliness of L-G Petrov's vocals and the bruising rhythm tone that they basically pioneered. But beyond just being another memorable punch in the gut, this is actually a fairly musical exhibition which is utterly unafraid to take a few chances, like introducing the strings at the intro to "Pandemic Rage", acoustic guitars, etc. Of course, it's the churning, enormous grooves, and evil winding guitar melodies that probably present the closest mirrors to the band's seminal Earache works, but I still feel like the Swedes haven't given up the idea that they can turn over a few new leaves...

Definitely a little more speed/thrash here in tunes like "The Underminer" or "Waiting for Death" that highlight the massive Slayer influence they've always operated under, but there are certainly a few of the morbid, mid-paced hooks that anchored records as widely spaced as Clandestine and Serpent Saints, although the production here is far more in the wheelhouse of the latter, a tidier mutation of their original, crushing guitar tone which plays well against the melodies and brute nihilism of Petrov's delivery, which sounds nearly as convincing to me here as anywhere else in their canon. The bass is as fat as my cholesterol levels, but somehow still manages to get lost just a little when the rhythm guitars are firing up the kiln, while you can really make out the toms, kicks and modest snare smashing in equal measure for a truly fulfilling, overall body to the sound. One of my favorite tunes on the disc, "Eternal Woe" is this slow, gloomy barbaric thrasher with some nice warped bell sounding strikes to the initial verse beats, subtle and clinical muted guitar lines and a chorus that just blows the roof off a cavern despite its lack of a really mind-boring melody or vocal line. "Digitus Medius" throws a devious, catchy melody right off the bat that probably belonged in the Hypocrisy catalog, and I particularly enjoyed how it returned for the chorus in chord form as the single most amazing riff on the whole disc.

Not all the tunes are equally interesting...for example the lead-in 'singles' that I had heard before getting the album, "Bedlam Attack" and "Vulture and the Traitor" have a few bum chord progressions that don't really excite me, but even these have at least an upswing in quality towards the choruses, and really I can't count a 'bad' track anywhere in the 11. Some might derive more than others from what they've released on prior albums, but there definitely seemed to be an enthusiasm about this material, a stripping down to the bare, brute necessities and then dressing them up with a skirt of the atmospherics, variation and even a sliver of the symphonic that they've encountered on their long road. As if after seven years of uncertainty they'd suddenly re-traced that vision which had begun on the second and third discs and decided to keep evolving it into a marginally more accessible strain, without going all mainstream or excessively 'rock' like the shitty Same Difference. It's just a solid, entirely Entombed experience, and whether you find yourself for or against L-G Petrov and these other, later members meting out the spiritual successor to what they were doing on the last record, give it a listen, it's good cruising music for that pickup with shotgun rack, crushing music for an angry soul. It doesn't do either brand a disservice.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Slight Name Change, No Sound Change - 76%

TheStormIRide, August 4th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Century Media Records

Legendary Swedish death 'n' rollers Entombed have recently suffered the same fate as Queensryche, Gorgoroth and Tank with a much publicized division. The rift was caused when founding guitarist Alex Hellid refused to perform on a 2013 tour. Because of that, founding vocalist L-G Petrov decided to begin recording a new album with the most recent Entombed lineup, sans Hellid. Meanwhile, Hellid announced that he would be joined by Ulf Cederlund and Nicke Andersson, who are both also founding members of Entombed, to do a live rendition of Clandestine. The problem was that both Hellid and Petrov were panning their band as Entombed with no clear indication which incantation was the official version. Petrov's edition had their album recorded, but due to legal issues, had to repeatedly push the release date back until August 2014 (it was originally slated for fall of 2013).

Apparently the Entombed name is owned by all four original members (Petrov, Hellid, Cederlund and Andersson). Because of this dispute, Hellid and crew can't tour as Entombed and Petrov's album had to be released under a new moniker, the aptly named Entombed A.D, as all sources show that neither group is currently allowed to use the Entombed name. Back to the Front is Entombed A.D.'s debut album, even though it would have been Entombed's tenth overall. Regardless of who's playing where, Back to the Front certainly carries the flag of Entombed has been doing over the last twenty years. Despite what the label has been trying to push down our throats, this does not serve as Entombed's grand return to the days of Left Hand Path and Clandestine. Even calling this a return to the rocking days of Wolverine Blues is quite the long shot.

Rather than the lauded rebirth, the majority of Back to Front could have come straight from Morning Star or Inferno. That's certainly not a bad thing, as we are greeted the same mid-paced, crushing groove and sledgehammer intensity that was so prevalent in Entombed's later era, but where those albums had a few moments basking in upbeat, rollicking rhythms, Back to the Front seems to have trouble moving past the mid-paced crunch. The production reminds me of the thick and meaty job that was on Inferno: the guitars are crunchy as hell and the rhythm section is pounding, while L-G Petrov dominates the album with his trademarked throat torn shouts and growls. The band uses the same staunch staccato riffing and interjection of melodic licks that abounded in their recent work, creating a dissonant and bludgeoning tone. Songs like “Pandemic Rage” and “Digital Medius” will roll you over with their heavy-handed, sauntering swagger while “Vulture and the Traitor” and “Bait and Bleed” focus more on a rollicking crunch with dips into that old school punk attitude of yore. Despite the name change and splintered line up, Back to the Front is business as usual.

Those hoping for a return to the early days of Clandestine and Left Hand Path will be disappointed, no doubt. If you dig the thundering, crunchy groove of Morning Star and Inferno, you will definitely appreciate what Entombed A.D. has brought forth. I rather enjoy the raucous mid-paced stomp, but there really isn't much diversity throughout. At the end of the album you're left knowing that it was a decent album but not really remembering much aside from that.

Written for The Metal Observer.