If you're old enough to remember the scene back then, you know that 1989-1991 was an important era for underground Metal. Take a minute and just think about the albums that came out in that short period of time. There was Sepultura's Beneath The Remains and Arise, Obituary's Slowly We Rot, Death's Human, Bolt Thrower's War Master, Deicide's Deicide, Napalm Death's Harmony Corruption, Benediction's The Grand Leveller, Massacre's From Beyond and Carcass' Symphonies Of Sickness, to name just a few. Those were the days of Earache, Roadrunner and the “Triple Thrash Threat“ on Headbangers Ball. Those were also the days when the mighty Entombed led the Scandinavian Death Metal scene with 1990's landmark album Left Hand Path and its legendary followup, 1991's Clandestine. If you haven't listened to these Entombed records in a long time, give them a spin and remember just how unbeatable this band was in those early days. Now, get ready to listen to something new from the band that is just as powerful and memorable as those two releases.
Out August 5 in the US on Century Media Records, Back To The Front (released under the revised moniker “Entombed A.D.”) is a brutal Metal album, similar in many ways to the direction the band followed on their last effort, 2007's Serpent Saints: The Ten Amendments. These two albums are definitely more representative of Entombed's early days than their more Rock-oriented sound during the late '90s (especially on 1998's polarizing Same Difference, which found the band sounding closer to New York bands like Electric Frankenstein and D Generation than anything on Clandestine). Did the band (currently comprised of singer L-G Petrov, guitarist Nico Elgstrand, bassist Victor Brandt and drummer Olle Dahlstedt) make a conscious decision to keep things full-on Metal with this new album, or was it something that developed organically as the album took shape?
“We never sat down and decided what kind of album it was gonna be,” replies Elgstrand. “Everybody wrote as much music as they could, and then we took the best bits of everything. Also, we always knew that most metal is stronger than a rock.”
Although it is characteristically heavy, Back To The Front is also unlike any other Entombed album ever released. For one thing, founding member/guitarist Alex Hellid is nowhere to be heard on the disc. (Elgstrand performs all guitar work.) Then, of course, there is the whole “Entombed A.D.” thing. Despite these oddities, Elgstrand insists that this is still the band that legions of fans around the world have come to follow and respect over the last quarter-century.
“We just added the 'A.D.' to avoid a bunch of horseshit; it is still Entombed,” he says. “Same shit, new package, if you will (laughs).”
So what about said horseshit? Personnel turmoil is certainly nothing new for this band, but Hellid's sudden – and unexplained – departure last year (coupled with a nine-month delay in Back To The Front's release) has led to considerable speculation about the band's current status. In one respect, Entombed has never been a band known for internal stability. (The band's ongoing personnel shuffling has resulted in Back To The Front featuring only one member from the Left Hand Path lineup and nobody who performed on Clandestine.) In another respect, Hellid was the only constant member on all Entombed recording until Back To The Front. What exactly has been going on with this band in the past year or so?
“We've been waiting and sharpening our swords for the battle to come, so to speak,” responds Elgstrand, who has been with the band since 2004. “Finally, it's time to throw down! Metaphorically speaking, of course (laughs).”
Not exactly the most revealing answer offered in the history of Metal, but it appears to be as far as Entombed A.D. is willing to go in addressing the elephant in the room.
Cloak-and-dagger drama aside, Entombed A.D. is at least straightforward when it comes to taking Back To The Front on the road. Elgstrand promises that the band's upcoming tour will offer a mix of new and old material, while the band is currently finalizing the addition of the second guitarist for the trek.
In addition to reminding listeners of the Entombed rage of yesteryear, Back To The Front features input from an important figure from the group's past. Former drummer Nicke Andersson, whose post-Entombed exploits have included The Hellacopters and Imperial State Electric, turns up with a songwriting co-credit on “Vulture And The Traitor,” one of Back To The Front's most incendiary numbers.
“He came to us maybe six years ago with the instrumental track and said that [it] sounds like Entombed, way too much for him to use it (laughs),” Elgstrand recalls. “We didn't use it for Serpent Saints for some reason. When we had a listen maybe two years ago trying to see what songs we had for the album, it was like, 'Great, one song done.' (laughs) So we recorded his arrangement as [it] was, put vocals on it and said, 'Thanks, man!'”
Few bands can boast one of their strongest releases 25 years into their career, but Back To The Front maintains Entombed A.D.'s well-deserved place as one of the true innovators of Death Metal. Looking back at some of the bands that came up with Entombed in the old Earache Records days – like Napalm Death, Carcass and Bolt Thrower, all of whom still perform in the present day – it's clear that there are a lot of lifers in this genre. What keeps this style of Metal music so relevant and meaningful to Elgstrand and the other guys in Entombed A.D. after so many years?
“I guess we don't know anything better - or else,” he laughs. “I think the general metalhead is in it for life one way or another. It gets in your bloodstream - kinda like getting bit by a vampire! Most of us are also too dumb to quit regardless of conditions.”
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