Recently, I spent a good chunk of a day listening to the first four Entombed albums because that’s what you do when you have a pair of ears, a working stereo, and love awesome metal. I have spun these albums countless times over the years, but it didn’t hit me until halfway through this particular whirl through Wolverine Blues that part of the reason Entombed—specifically those early records—has clicked with a wider populace of metalhead than their peers, cohorts, and doppelgangers comes down to how smooth they sound.
Of course, everyone worth their salt is aware of how they spearheaded the HM-2/buzzsaw guitar sound, but there’s something in the tone Alex Hellid and Ulf Cederlund were able to extract that, when combined with the riffs, their complementary playing styles and Nicke Andersson’s groove and backbeat, enveloped Entombed’s brand of brutality in an aquatic slipperiness. Maybe I’m finally hearing something in my head besides the usual voices or fishing for an angle, but contrast this nuance with the brash bash of the Swedish (and beyond) death metal of today and the difference is like that between a controlled underbrush burn and a raging forest fire.
Case in point, Linneryd, Sweden’s Entrails. The band’s history goes back to 1990 and the original wave of SDM, but guitarist Jimmy Lundqvist never thought the band’s demo recordings were up to snuff enough. That hesitation and lack of confidence meant time and opportunity passed them by and the band split in 1998. The past eleven years since their reformation in 2008 has seen Entrails making up for lost time with an unstoppable work ethic that has bestowed upon us demos/demo compilations, split EPs, and five full-lengths quicker than overpriced, shoebox-sized condos appear in gentrifying neighbourhoods.
Rise of the Reaper is album number six and once the disposable intro/title track is done wasting everybody’s time, “For Hell” kicks in with a blinding riff churned out via a guitar tone that sounds like walnut shells being cracked amid a flurry of distorted static. It’s as vicious and pummelling as it is vital and fuzzy, and enough to make one wonder if speakers are being damaged or if every member of your local biker gang is simultaneously revving their Harley. And hey, the song’s lurching groovy riff, massive chromatic shifts, horror soundtrack harmonic layers and galloping parries of classic Swe-death, ain’t half bad neither!
“Miscreation” and “In the Shape of the Dead” are mid-paced stompers that boast power chord choppiness instead of single note slickness with the guitar tone continuing to gnaw on listener’s ears. Despite these tracks possessing a more traditional heavy metal feel, albeit almost sluggish and plodding, the sound compensates with absolute lethality to where it could be a point of alienation for more genteel listeners. Yes, what I’m saying is that this could be too heavy for some people. One person’s monumental and epic sonic transposition of a collision between avalanche, hurricane, and fertilizer bomb is another person’s point of unnerving overkill and disgust. But not you, of course! Being a patron of Metal Injection, you want to be crushed, killed, and destroyed by the biggest bear hug of a guitar sound possible and “Gravekeeper” will put a toothless smile on your battered face.
When the band puts its foot on the gas, the resulting projectile vomit is a barrage of punky, thrashing rhythms. “Crawl in Your Guts,” “For Whom the Head Rolls” (love those song titles, by the way!), “Destination Death,” and “Destruction" sees menace offset by an uppity two-beat dash and punchy accents washed over by the caveman echo on Pontus Samuelsson’s vocals. On the flip side of all this warm-as-hell and fuzzy-as-black-bear-balls virulence, there are some questionable songwriting non-sequiturs that make inexplicable and random stop-on-a-dime appearances—the unaccompanied dual doom guitar harmony that halts “Cathedral of Pain” in its tracks and the shakily tuned acoustic guitars of “The End,” for example.
Lundqvist himself has gone on record saying that, despite a certain happiness he holds about the worldwide spread and health of Swedish death metal, it is a subgenre suffering from saturation. There’s no doubting that you can’t take three steps to the right in underground metal without tripping over an HM-2 (or HM-2-ish) sound. But there’s a good reason for that: it’s a glorious sonic experience! However, listen a little harder and you'll cotton on to the fact that there is much more variance and expansiveness involved. Entrails remain faithful to what they know best—they were there when this all kicked off—and have demonstrated there’s still excitement to be had by flogging a dead horse. As long as you use a heavier flogger.