Entombed A.D. suggests a great return to glory for the Swe-death greats: Entombed is dead, long live Entombed A.D.! When it came out two years ago, Back to the Front was more like Back to the Middle, a good if not workmanlike record that wasn’t offensive but wasn’t the grand comeback the band and record name seemed to imply. Now L.G. Petrov and his A.D. crew are back with Dead Dawn, and only the most naïve of optimists could have possibly expected Left Hand Path II: HM-2 Boogaloo. This doesn’t mean that there can’t be good stuff here though, so let’s ride, shoot straight, and speak the truth about this new platter.
Surprising approximately zero people, Dead Dawn has a lot in common with Back to the Front. The sound here is a hybrid of one part Clandestine with two parts Wolverine Blues as it was there and on Serpent Saints and Morningstar. This means the songs are still pretty standard and predictable in structure, and the riffs stick mainly to alternating between rock-tinged Swe-death tremolo-based standards, or groovy midpaced chuggery, both with the end goal of being catchy. If the band died after 1993 for you, the dead still dead remain. If a far groovier, more simplistic, and hard rockin’ Clandestine sounds like the sort of thing that would float your boat though, consider your dinghy one record heavier.
A strange influence worth noting here is Sir Mix-A-Lot, because the back end of this record is mighty fine. “Silent Assassin” is exactly what I’d hoped for with this record, with a stellar drum performance, quality riffs, L.G. Petrov’s unmistakeable vocals in fine form, and great chorus melody that doesn’t venture into latter-day Dismember and Amon Amarth styled triumphalism (see: Lik, Demonical, etc.). There’s a cool groovy death-blues tinge in “Black Survival” that rears its head in the main riff, while the title track has a convincing swagger to it emphasized by the occasional speedy outburst. “Total Death” rides a d-beat well, and L.G.’s shouting of the title right before a nifty solo makes the whole thing an obnoxious kind of fun, although the simple and catchy riffs didn’t exactly suggest it was trying for anything else. The death-doom infused “Hubris Fall” sounds like a cross between a funeral and victory march, and this musical ode to Pyrrhic victory stands on the capable shoulders of guitarist Nico Elgstrand, who puts on a measured and subtle performance that’s praiseworthy enough to warrant a mention.
As is my opinion of basically every Entombed record excluding the first three, there’s quality stuff here peppered amongst decent if not unremarkable tunes that are solid while they’re on but don’t encourage tons of replays. “As the World Fell” goes on too long for its own good, overextending its few ideas and relegating itself to background noise that made me perk up sometimes with a good solo or drum beat. It isn’t a bad song, just not a particularly good one. Entombed proved everything it had to prove on Left Hand Path, Clandestine, and their paradigm shift on Wolverine Blues; Dead Dawn, like most of their other stuff, comes across as a victory lap. Not a worthless victory lap by any means, but not the sound of a band out to dominate their scene or even bother with aiming for greatness; this is fun and overall well-done metal straight from the comfort zone. The production isn’t HM-2 worship, and like Back to the Front uses a chunkier mid-period Obituary tone for one guitar and a more traditional Swe-death tone for the other. It sounds fat, which works for the plentiful burly grooves, but serves to slightly dull the edge on the sharper riffs that appear in “Midas in Reverse” and other tracks heavier on the tremolo stuff.
If you like Entombed’s style after Wolverine Blues then Dead Dawn will make you happy. As for me, I’m left contented with a record that I’ll probably throw on again in the future, enjoy it, and shelve it again without a second thought. Entombed A.D. isn’t out to change the game; they’re playing it by the rules they helped create (again) after 1993 and having fun while they’re at it. I’m of the belief that it’s mutually accepted among the band and their fans that we’re not getting a new classic out of them, so why not enjoy the tunes on the ride? They’ve given fans more than enough to like, detractors enough to continue to ignore, and those on the fence enough to remain largely on the fence about. For better or worse, your opinion on this incarnation of Entombed won’t change after Dead Dawn.