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Left Hand Path

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★★★★½
(23 Reviews)

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  • Nihilist, the precursor to Entombed started by Nicke and Alex, had actually been doing a pretty good job of making waves during the late 80’s in Sweden. Their first demo, which also coincidentally featured Morbid members L.G. and Uffe, impressed the head of Earache Records so much that Nihilist looked to be on a promising road to being signed with them. However, due to inner-band turmoil they soon called it quits, although three days later Nicke, Alex, Uffe, and L.G. decided to get together for good under the name Entombed. In no time at all the three track “But Life Goes On” demo was bashed out and shipped to Earache. And to once again use the tired, old cliché – the rest is history. The Swedish counterpart to the American Death Metal movement had begun.”Left Hand Path” was recorded in about one week in December of 1989. It was an intriguing time in Sweden, where handfuls of bands were experimenting with heavier sounds that were heard in the rest of the world. American Death Metal had broken wide open years before with Death and Possessed (among a few notable others). What made Entombed a special affair was the band’s insistence on not relying solely on the strict American Death Metal palette for inspiration. They were more intent on fusing some of the defiant aesthetics of punk/hardcore as well as keeping it heavy (really, really heavy…) by writing memorable riffs rather than relying on sheer speed at every turn to make a name for themselves. Also important is the fact that “Left Hand Path” was one of the earliest Swedish albums to defined the revered and coveted “Sunlight Studio” sound that permeated most Death Metal albums released throughout the 90’s in that country. Yes, it really was that influential.What made Entombed’s debut an essential listen when it was released in early 1990, and what made it an immortal classic in Metal thereafter, was the eerily sadistic atmosphere it presented. The way that each track was written put such focus and emphasis on the value of great riffs and how they could be arranged to sound vaguely familiar, yet completely fresh. Hence, a listener might be able to fleetingly point out one of Entombed’s influences, but barely comprehend just how they’d drag SO MANY influences from so many different genres and styles and blend and stitch them seamlessly. And on top of all that, tuning down their guitars added to the immense weight and jarring intensity of every sadistic cut. For example, in the title track alone there are allusions to sludge-infested Death Metal somewhere between early Death (the band), Carcass, and Autopsy, and then emotionally crushing Doom Metal that would rival any Sabbath-inspired acts to this day. Nicke’s insanely precise pounding and L.G.’s gravelly guttural throat finish off any doubts or petty concerns about the validity of Swedish Death. Obviously, since this album wouldn’t still be so well-respected to this day if this weren’t the case, the aforementioned vicious brilliance doesn’t just begin and end with the first track – each of the cuts that follow brandish an immediacy and hunger that’s just as antagonistic and hostile as the last. Simply put, “Left Hand Path” was the beginning of an era – especially in Entombed’s homeland, where this was the likely text that tons of bands heavily and eagerly studied to learn how Death Metal should sound. Ironically, Entombed’s promising start was not necessarily a prediction of their own “left hand path” so to speak. L.G. did not appear on the band’s very successful follow-up “Clandestine”, although he would return soon after. Yet by “Wolverine Blues”, their third album, they had definitely taken a very different direction. While Entombed has since released some extremely amazing and brilliant “death-n-roll” (as it’s often called…) albums, such as “Morning Star”, “Uprising”, and the aforementioned “Wolverine Blues”, they never returned to the familiar territories of their classic genre-defining debut. Listen to it with a sense of nostalgia if you must – but make no mistake, “Left Hand Path” is still as vital, fresh, and commanding today as it was in 1990.

    Posted on November 14, 2009