Entombed is the All-Father of Swedish death metal and their Left Hand Path album stands like a black obelisk at the epicenter on the genre map, guiding all pilgrims onward to the next musical waypoint. Although only their first two albums were true death and they morphed into something like death rock on subsequent outings, the oversized legacy of their formative years looms ever large. Their last full length release was 2007s Serpent Saints and since then they’ve been embroiled in internal strife and various litigations. As a result, the faction of the band led by vocalist L.G. Petrov have adopted the moniker of Entombed A.D. and without founding guitarist Alex Hellid, they’re poised to begin the next phase of their careers with Back to the Front. With so much drama and lawyers running rampant behind the scenes, it’s natural to wonder what to expect and whether Entombed could be relevant in today’s music scene. Well, this is pretty much typical Entombed (A.D.) material, based off their Wolverine Blues template of punky D-beat death. It might not be a full return to their early death roots, but it’s heavy and you can certainly hear the simmering resentment and hostility of a band going through tough times of late (lawyers will do that to ya). What surprised me was just how solid of a comeback this is considering all the crap going on while it was under construction.
If you heard any of their post Wolverine Blues platters, this won’t seem all too new to you. While songs like “Bait and Bleed” and “Second to None” aren’t very far from Inferno or Serpent Saints in overall style, tracks like “Pandemic Rage,” “The Underminer” and “Bedlam Attack” feel much more death-centric and remind me of the Death Breath debut and the Bombs of Hades material, complete with blast beats and wicked thrash riffs scattered about. And that’s pretty much how the album goes: a death rock tune and then a more straight up death metal one and yet things feel cohesive and it all flows well.
The best tune to my ears is “Eternal Woe,” which mixes a heavy, grinding approach with varied guitar styles and some interesting playing. L.G. sounds positively savage and when contrasted with the sometimes melodic leads, it creates a unique dynamic. Also quiet addicting is opener “Kill to Live,” which has a nifty swing and swagger to the riffing, and the somewhat out of place Amon Amarth-like battle metal of “Soldier of No Fortune.”
Most of the songs are pretty quick hitters at four to five minutes and the writing is solid with most of the songs leaving an impression after one or two spins. Only “Digitus Medius” feels unnecessary and a tad generic. Not too shabby for a band on forced hiatus for seven years, huh?
This is essentially the same line up that appeared on Serpent Saints, with Hellid being replaced by former bassist Nice Elgstrand, who does a uncanny job of capturing the classic Entombed vibe and riffing style. He does go outside the lines at times to include ideas from thrash and even NWoBHM, but these mostly serve as accents to the traditional bulldozing, crushing riffs you’d expect. L.G. sounds as good as always and manages to dial up the nastiness on many of the songs. He does less of the shouting he did on albums like To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth and sticks much closer to the death roar we all know and love, frequently harkening back to the Left Hand Path days with his delivery.
While it isn’t the return to their glorious death days of yore, Back to the Front is a good and nearly very good frolic through the fields of death rock and essentially a career retrospective touching on all phases of their varied discography. It’s nice to see them back in the game again, especially with something worth hearing and musically relevant. Hail the All Father and get back to the front!