By a scorched and blackened mile, the late 80’s and early 90’s were the most exciting period in the history of the deformed bastard families of extreme metal. From out of the crypt, twisted new genres bloomed and evolved as a deluge of landmark releases found their way onto vinyl after years of demo tapes, fanzines and trading networks prepped the way.
The underground was spilling overground. Bubbling and curdling, poisonous and addictive, this was a movement that was truly transgressive. The sounds were new, the culture was DIY and for a whole generation of young men (and Jo Bench), the rush to daub a bloodied mark in this nascent frontier was all-consuming. Symphonies of Sickness were composed upon Altars of Madness and – perhaps most towering of all – was the beckoning lure of the Left Hand Path writ large in classic Dan Seagrave art.
With their Earache Records debut, Sweden’s Entombed made good on the promise of their previous incarnation as Nihilst with a statement of intent that was intoxicating in its intensity, lunacy and ripe, decomposing freshness. From the first bars of the title track that opens the LP, the famous buzz-saw guitar tone, machine gun drums and guttural howling of vocalist Lars Goran Petrov set stereos ablaze in bedrooms throughout the world. Here in Australia I’d never heard anything quite like it. An adrenaline shot spun intravenous and direct to my teenage brain.
After being ousted temporarily for follow-up LP ‘Clandestine’, LG returned to the fold for Entombed’s third LP ‘Wolverine Blues’, which saw the band’s sound rapidly evolving as they jettisoned the tenets of pure death metal for a more streamlined approach – a move which would divide old fans but ultimately see the band’s star ascend to strange new heights.
Now, after 27 years, eleven albums and numerous line-up changes, I’m on the phone with LG himself to discuss those heady early days, continuing the band’s legacy as ‘Entombed A.D. ‘, the state of Death Metal in 2017 and their imminent return to our shores.
This interview first appeared in Collide art and Culture Magazine.
“In the beginning we were just little punk kids” he begins, “then we discovered the kind of heavy metal where you tried to play as fast as possible. Once we added the down tuning it was a perfect mix. Those Nihilist demos were really well appreciated and they ignited a lot of competition between the European and Florida death metal scenes, but that just brought out the best from both worlds.”
Even after twenty seven years, it seems the more things change the more they stay the same.
“We’re still the same people as we were back in the day. It’s still possible to play fast and brutal as you get older while also coming up with new ideas. We still have the same frame of mind. A lot of the bands and people from that era are still around, especially here in Stockholm. It’s a small town and if you go to a hard rock bar or something, you meet all the people from Grave and Unleashed. It’s pretty much as it was back in the old days, but back then we couldn’t get into the pubs! We would just bring a little cassette recorder stereo with us as we walked around the town and ask someone older to buy us beer.
Back then it was definitely a lot more work to get your music. Nowadays you have the internet and stuff, but back then you had to wait two or three weeks for a demo to be sent over from the states or wherever, and there was a real sense of anticipation for when it arrived at the post office weeks after you ordered it. It was like Christmas!”.
Along with Florida, Sweden was one of the epicentres of the seismic death metal revolution. But what was it about the country that made it such a fertile source for such extreme music?
“Blame it on the weather!” laughs Petrov, “It’s so dark and cold during the winter that nobody wants to be outside. Back then we had good facilities, there was a lot of rehearsal spaces so everyone was just inside playing metal basically to keep warm. That’s where all the music came from; we spent a lot of time in the rehearsal rooms.
Sadly nowadays the government has cut down on a lot of those things, but there are still a few new up-and-coming bands that are beginning to play more and more. The next generation is taking over. It seems like it will never end and that’s a good thing, you know? Once we stop with music we can comfortably lean back and see the new generations with their new bands and pat ourselves on the back knowing we did good work and were an inspiration to others.”
Although obvious in hindsight, it must have been impossible to predict in the crucible of those rehearsal rooms what a lasting impact these sounds would create.
“We had no idea! We were just happy kids doing demos! Once we got the first record deal we thought that was it, that was the end of our career – ‘We made a record! We can stop playing now!’. But you continue making new songs and once you’re happy with them, you put them out. If other people like them it’s a big bonus, getting to go on tour and play them live. Even nowadays, a new record is a new start and we’re looking forward to touring.”
The desire to make up for lost time seems to be a defining urge after the band endured a six year hiatus between the release of Entombed’s ninth LP ‘Serpent Saints’ and Entombed A.D.’s return with ‘Back to the Front’
“Yeah, after the ‘Serpent Saints’ album it was six years before we finally sat down and just went ‘fuck it, let’s do an album’ – but then one guy in the band started to cry about it and didn’t want to do it. We went ahead and did it anyway. That created some problems but we don’t care about that, we’re just focused on making music and here we are with two new records and constantly touring. As we should! It’s what musicians should do! You do a record and you tour. It evolves and it starts over again.
‘Back to the Front’ and ‘Dead Dawn’ only had eighteen months between them; some might say that was too fast but that’s how strongly we felt about making new music. In fact we already have some songs ready for the next one. The hunger is still there, there’s no breaks now. We just go for it. It’s a good feeling.”
The new LP ‘Dead Dawn’ manages to sound contemporary while retaining that old school death metal heart beating proud like its 1989 all over again with a familiar crunch of Boss Heavy Metal 2 Pedals tilted to ten.
“Yeah that sound is our trademark. We record the things that we like and we’ve always liked that HM2 sound so that’s always going to be a part of it. Every album is like a new beginning but you just go for it. You might grow older but that sound never leaves your system! We’ve had that feeling for twenty six years. We’ve had our ups and downs but the hunger is still there, it’s what we are. We’re musicians! We’re metalheads!”
– Andi Lennon