Entombed_Left Hand PathWe all know about Entombed. One of the most important metal bands to have emerged from Sweden, the band defined and developed the “Stockholm” death metal sound by bringing together their hardcore punk influences with new ideas from the US and UK’s fledgling death metal scenes. They’re also responsible for creating, while still under their original Nihilist moniker, a savage guitar tone that contributed to the scene’s unique identity, and popularizing Sunlight Studios as the place to record Swedish death metal. While Carnage’s Dark Recollections emerged around the same time, it was Entombed’s Left Hand Path that really put the scene on the map, receiving near universal praise from critics and fellow musicians alike. We know this – it has been documented in countless interviews, retold in hundreds of magazine articles and even in a few books. So instead of repeating the story for the umpteenth time, I’m going to tell you why I don’t like this album.

Or rather, why I didn’t like this album. When I was first getting into metal in the early 2000s, Left Hand Path was one of those records I found particularly difficult to stomach. Depending on when you place the genesis of death metal, I am approximately as old as the genre; when Earache released Left Hand Path, I was still drinking from cups with plastic lids. Despite appearing on The Alan Parsons Project’s I, Robot as backing singers, my parents’ musical tastes were strictly classical, so I wasn’t exposed to anything heavier than The Beatles until I was thirteen. Naturally, my first forays into metal were at the more melodic and progressive end of the spectrum – Tool, Opeth, In Flames and Katatonia provided my starting point. Hungry for more metal, I soon turned to the murky underworld of internet message boards for recommendations. As a bona fide death metal classic, Left Hand Path was obviously suggested.

Left Hand Path is the complete opposite of melodic and progressive. From the very first riff, Entombed hit you square in the genitals with an explosion of raw aggression and speed. Any hint of a tune is quickly subdued by more hammering riffs and the brutality of that guitar sound. I just wasn’t ready for the relentless lack of melody and incessant one-two pounding of Nicke Andersson’s drums.

My copy of Left Hand Path remained largely neglected in the few years after I first bought it; I preferred contemporary releases with their more polished writing and production. But as death metal has progressed and grown, I have increasingly found myself drawn back to the youthful energy and straightforward aggression of its gnarled roots. Combined with an ever-increasing appreciation for hardcore punk inspired by my unexpected love of Nasum and Refused, I now find that Entombed’s early output is some of my favorite death metal of all.

Entombed

Consider the opening title track. Let us pause a moment to bask in its magnificent, crusty girth. It neatly captures all the different elements Entombed display over the course of this record in a neat six and a half minutes: frenzied thrash, slow chugging heaviness, and even one of those crazy, widdly licks that Ulf Cederlund and Alex Hellid liked to throw in now and again for variety. It took me a few years to realize that they had pilfered the epic ending riff from the Phantasm horror movies, but what an inspired pilfering it was. It fits perfectly with the album’s horror theme, and provides a moment for Cederlund and Hellid to express themselves with some naively wonderful fretboard histrionics.

The quality rarely dips. Whether it’s the slow crawl that opens “Morbid Devourment,” the pounding D-beats of “When Life Has Ceased” or “Revel in Flesh,” the Death-worshiping “Supposed to Rot,” or the creative 3-note riffs in “Abnormally Deceased,” Entombed showed amazingly creative songwriting considering their ages at the time. “Bitter Loss” even features – very briefly – some melodic vocals along with the evil guitars and surprisingly complex drumming. Despite these stand-out moments, the songs do begin to blend into one: many of the riffs are interchangeable and there’s not a whole lot of diversity. Still, the record remains gripping for its entirety thanks to the incredible energy and a guitar sound heavier than the Andromeda galaxy.

I’m writing this as a small tribute to a seminal record, but the legions of bands who still ape it a quarter of a century from its original release is surely tribute enough. It may not be my personal favorite in this sub-genre1, and it’s arguably not even Entombed’s best (feel free to fight about this in the comments), but it is undeniably the most important Swedish death metal record ever released. It also serves as a reminder to me that sometimes the finer things in life – even if they are seemingly drenched in aural filth – need a little more perseverance to appreciate.

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  1. it varies, but probably Dismember’s Like an Everflowing Stream
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  • Professor D. Grover the XIIIth

    There’s not much to say about this album that hasn’t been said a zillion times before, but it’s a classic. My second favorite death metal album after Nocturnus’ brilliant The Key.

    • Awesome record! Also released in 1990…

    • Jukka Alanen

      Funnily enough, both albums have the same cover designer Dan Seagrave (as can be easily seen when compared).

      • Professor D. Grover the XIIIth

        Yeah, he did a lot of art for a lot of classic albums (Dark Recollections, Transcend The Rubicon, Like An Everflowing Stream, Penetralia, Retribution, Altars Of Madness, Testimony Of The Ancients, Fornever Laid To Rest, Effigy Of The Forgotten, the list goes on and on). He was the right artist for the time, it seems.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    …an album best known spawning a billion second-rate clones.

    • Just like Slaughter of the Soul.

      • I’d say SotS is guiltier because of all the awful metalcore.

    • Gonzalo Salazar

      The Jango Fett of Death Metal

  • Francesco Bordoni

    Hard to say something unexpected about this record – still, you had me at “I’m going to tell you why I don’t like this album”: for the next two paragraphs I was all like “watchyoprofanity” XD

  • Alexandre Barata

    I tell you that probably my favorite album from Swedish DM is also that one from Dismember. But not only this piece of music is great, I saw them live 2 months ago, and this album’s songs kick soooo much ass, even after 25 years!!! This album is one of those immortal DM classics, that in a century Heavy Metal fans will look upon as we (at least I do) look upon Nocturne Op. 9 by Chopin, a timeless piece of music!

    Thanks for your input :)

  • Joos2000

    As much as I love Left Hand Path, I still think Clandestine is their best album. Serpent Saints isn’t bad either, but Clandestine is where it’s at for me.

    • I have to agree there. Clandestine was a monster.

    • Yup, me too.

    • Refined-Iron Cranium

      Same. I’m also a huge fan of their later hardcore / death ‘n roll material, but Clandestine is probably their best. I fucking love the drumming on that album, not to mention the ghastly vocals.

      I wish Nicke Andersson would write some more for Entombed. The band is in total shambles now.

      • Joos2000

        I must confess that I haven’t really listened in on the Entombed AD Stuff. But considering how long they’ve been going, they still seem to have an audience which demands respect in its own right.
        Maybe I’ll give it a listen soon and maybe I’ll change my mind. But I agree, if Nicke wrote some more stuff, well, that could only be a good thing.

  • Dr. Scorpion

    Where should i start with death metal? (Mostly a prog fan btw )

    • Wilhelm

      Anything early/mid 90’s by Entombed, Death, Morbid Angel, At the Gates, Obituary, Carcass, In flames, dark tranquillity – you really cannot go wrong.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      The embedded track :)

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Since you say you are a prog fan I would recommend you start with Atheist, Pestilence (Spheres) or Opeth.
      But you can never go wrong with Morbid Angel´s “Altars Of MAdness”

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      +1 for Wilhelm’s mention of Death, I’d vote start with ‘Symbolic’ and move to ‘Human’ after if you dig it. Deicide’s ‘The Stench of Redemption’ is super melodic with tons of intricate leads you might like which should offset the vocals a bit and make them more palatable. Hypocrisy’s ‘Virus’ is catchy as the plague, Monstrosity’s ‘Spiritual Apocalypse’ is severely underrated and awesome, and for whatever reason most people unfamiliar with death metal really dig ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’ (the full album) by Amon Amarth.

    • Start with stuff with lots of melody, like Opeth’s Bkackwater Park, and maybe Edge of Sanity’s Crimson. Gojira?

      • Dr. Scorpion

        I Gojira and ‘old’ opeth boring. :|

        • Definitely try Death (Symbolic, Individual Thought Patterns), Atheist (Unquestionable Presence) and Edge of Sanity (Crimson) then. Also Focus by Cynic, though that is sort of leaving Death Metal behind almost.

          • Dr. Scorpion

            Thanks man!!!!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      All good suggestions there.
      Pestilence ‘Spheres’ is a great call!
      With Opeth, I’d suggest starting at Orchid and working your way through their catalogue, chronologically I do that all the time :).

      • I’d say Blackwater Park is a natural starting point for Opeth – Orchid is quite raw and not so well written. I don’t think Opeth really got going until MAYH…

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          You’re probably right though maybe Ghost Reveries is a slightly more approachable first …. but starting at the beginning with that band is a pretty fun thing to do. Their progression is pretty amazing.

          • True. I started with BWP and worked backwards. Morningrise was a bit of a shock!

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            I’m starting a fresh cycle now and am enjoying the icy coolness of Orchid as I type

    • sir_c

      Well, maybe Death (the band, for god’s sake) 1991-1995 era is a good start if you like technical stuff.

      Bolt Thrower is intense. Asphyx. Belial (Fin). Just a few that pop in.

  • OldManWolverine

    Sorry for the unrelated comment but website looks weird in all browsers I tried (I don’t use Adblock). Anyone have any idea?

    • Weird how?

      • OldManWolverine

        Sorry, should’ve posted a screenshot. Here is how it looks:

        • madhare

          Yeah, I got the same problem. It started around the time when you switched the background image (i.e. published the Record of the Month). So I thought you just messed up your CSS by accident, and would fix it soon.

          But the problem is still here regardless of device or browser. (Tested with: Samsung Android tablet – Chrome & Firefox; and Mac OS X – Chrome & Firefox.)

          I’m glad someone else brought it up too.

        • If anyone is having browser issues, contact us at [email protected] and we will try to sort it out for you.

          • Rok Jerman

            Working again!!! Thanks! A lot of reading is waitng. :)

    • Rok Jerman

      Same. here. I cant even read the artcles any more. :(

      • Try hitting the compatibility key or ctrl plus F5

      • Rok Jerman

        Thank you. Tried. Won’t help. It’s just different configuration as it just to be…i tried in explorer and chorme…boh.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I like Wolverine Blues best … there I said it!
    I think its worth noting that Left Hand Path’s art work is killer and I believe played some part in its success … due to internets and Spotify / Youtube etc it’s easy to forget that at the time of LHPs release most people wouldn’t have heard it (or that much like it) before they bought it.
    Standing at record racks the art was usually the clincher.
    I will freely admit that I’m a shallow bad person and bought this because I thought the artwork was cool :). I walked out of my favourite (only) specialist metal record shop in Sydney with Voivod’s Nothing face and LHP because I liked the covers and couldn’t put either back…

  • The logo should be yellow. It should be yellow!!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      oh man blood red come on! maybe it would be even more perfect if the logo had no white fill behind the letters…

  • JL

    I don’t deny this album’s importance, but I don’t like the music, mainly for all the reasons listed in the “why I didn’t like this album” section of the review. I’m not a fan of punk at all, I don’t like the production, and the lack of melody doesn’t impress me.

  • 6810

    I take payment in cash. Only replies of job offers will be read. If you want to discuss per-word or hourly rates please indicate in the subject line.

    In other words… FTFY!

    For the sake of the author, I have rewritten this piece below. Please note, I have taken stylistic liberty of making the piece geared more toward an imagined reader perhaps not familiar with metal. It was not a necessary choice but a personal one.

    Entombed is one of the most important musical groups not only to have come out of Sweden but to the genre of music known as Heavy Metal. They are notable for their combination of hardcore and punk with the musical conventions of early death metal as well as their role in developing the Sunlight Studios guitar sound.

    Left Hand Path, released in 1990, influenced many bands in death metal (and beyond) both in Sweden and internationally. It is rightly considered a classic of the genre.

    However, hearing Left Hand Path for the first time was a complete shock to me. My musical context was distinctly un-metal. My parents’ taste was overwhelmingly biased in favour of classical music with a few commonly accepted exceptions such as the Beatles. Entombed’s music though, with its simple, uptempo aggressive beats, minor scale, chromatic riffs and vivid horror aesthetics was counter to everything I had enjoyed in music to that point.

    I hated it. I neglected it. It just never “clicked” for me.

    However, something in that sound made a mark on me. Perhaps as music continues to be produced using a more homogenous set of production tools, perhaps as many younger musicians strive to emulate the zeitgeist sound of now, perhaps simply nostalgia… something about Left Hand Path’s youthful energy and straightforward aggression and its proximity to punk and hard core just calls to me.

    Time on my musical journey has changed how I perceive this record. I know where it fits, how it works, why it works. Now I can chorus with the faithful, the stalwarts and all the other, hardcore and fair-weather friends who have rightly praised this crucial album in death metal’s history.

    ***Remember kids: Make every word count. Don’t just make wordcount.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Dickhead

    • Where’s the point in only giving only “concrete” descriptions of a well-known 25 year old album in an obviously personal piece?

      PS “zeitgeist sound of now”? Way to tautologise, prof :P

    • What is the point of this, besides being a tool?

      • Gonzalo Salazar

        I think he’s looking for a paid job.
        By providing free samples of his savoir faire.
        (16 words, unless the ” ‘s ” counts as 1, or unless you have to hyphenize savoir-faire when you’re not writing it in French, or unless I’m supposed to count the words in this parenthesis)

    • Gonzalo Salazar

      Also, Yer Metal is Olde has been deprecated as the correct spelling.
      If someone who is familiar with words, but not history, reads this, they may not get it.
      PLEASE rename the article series: The Album You Listen To, Which Can Be Categorized In The Musical Genre Known As Heavy Metal, Is Old

    • sir_c

      I just miss the black & white images as I imagine your piece being narrated by a 1950’s voice-over. It is as enjoyable to read as an encyclopedia lemma on Margaret Thatcher.
      Sorry, I prefer the original article.

  • Martin Knap

    I noticed for the first time that the roots under the bridge form a skull…

  • “…my parents’ musical tastes were strictly classical, so I wasn’t exposed to anything heavier than The Beatles until I was thirteen.”

    We would have been best of friends JLR. Best of friends.

    Note: I’m a Clandestine man myself.

  • robpal

    My metal is olde, 23 years since Dream Theater’s “Images and Words” today!

  • I put Swedeath saturday morning to do house chores.

    Is awesome to wash the laundry and sweep the floor making mean faces and swedish death metal hand gestures while attempting to growl:

    “What man’s created

    Man can destroy

    Bring to light

    That day of joy”.

    I still prefer Clandestine, but this one is a classic because it’s good.

    Terrific induction.

  • BANNED: Howard Dean

    Wait, what part of the late 80’s – early 90’s U.S. death metal scene was “fledgling?” That was basically the creative and commercial peak of death metal throughout the world, but particularly in the U.S. Bands like Morbid Angel, Obituary, Suffocation, Immolation, Incantation, and Atheist were all pushing death metal forward, in all different directions (creatively/compositionally).

    • Fledgling just as in young and still growing. When ‘Left Hand Path’ came out, ‘Dawn of Possession,’ ‘Onward to Golgotha,’ and ‘Effigy of the Forgotten’ were yet to appear, and Morbid Angel, Obituary and Atheist each had only one full-length record out.