|Conceived during the late '80s when death metal did everything it could to gain credibility as a substantial niche, Entombed instantly championed the eerie variation of brutal heavy metal, giving it credibility before quickly abandoning the style in the early '90s. In their post-death metal years, the band retained the niche genre's most alluring attributes as they ventured into uncharted territory, ultimately becoming a controversial, yet undoubtedly innovative, group unable to stop evolving.
Throughout the '90s, their albums illustrated a visionary group who didn't even themselves seem sure of their ultimate destination. This blind drive toward instinctual growth garnered Entombed substantial critical acclaim and an increased fan base, yet it also drew almost as much criticism, as the group abandoned a particular style just as they had mastered it, alienating their more stubborn fans. Still, whether or not fans chose to accept the band's continual evolution, there was little denying Entombed's role as an inventive and pioneering band operating in a notoriously close-minded genre.
Before the Swedish group was Entombed, group members Alex Hellid (guitar) and Nicke Andersson (drums) anchored the band Nihilist, with L.G. Petrov (vocals) and Uffe Cederlund (guitar) in and out of the band for a period of two years. Not even into their twenties yet, the group members recorded a series of demo tapes that were well-circulated around the burgeoning late-'80s death metal underground, inspiring plenty of hype. After Hellid and Andersson broke up Nihilist, despite the acclaim, they soon re-formed a few months later as Entombed with Petrov and Cederlund as full-time members. The quartet then recorded the infamous But Life Goes On demo that landed them a deal with Earache, the then-monolithic U.K. label responsible for introducing the world to grindcore. With Andersson and Cederlund covering for the missing bass player, it wasn't long before Earache debuted the group's Left Hand Path album.
Released in 1990 and capitalizing on the legacy of Nihilist, both critics and fans instantly championed Left Hand Path, recognizing its innovative take on death metal, a style that would soon become known as Swedish death metal once legions of second-rate bands quickly began emulating the sounds of Left Hand Path. Unfortunately, while everyone was praising the band, they were undergoing personal issues, resulting in the loss of their vocalist, Petrov, who wasn't on good terms with group founder, Andersson. During this transition period, the group did manage to recruit a bass player, Lars Rosenberg, and also recorded the Crawl EP with vocalist Orvar Säfström. However, this moment of stability didn't last long. Soon, the group was in the studio recording their Clandestine album, with Andersson handling the vocals for the ousted Säfström, which were attributed to Johnny Dordevic in the album's liner notes even though he didn't sing a single song. In the end, this troubled time resulted in an amazing album; where Left Hand Path had been a critical success and had won the group a cult audience, Clandestine's perfect production and improved songwriting helped the group crossover to an even larger audience while still wooing critics.
Building upon this acclaim, Earache chose Entombed to headline their mammoth Gods of Grind tour in 1992, which also featured Carcass, Cathedral, and Confessor. And when Dordevic suddenly left the group, Petrov returned to his original position as the group's rabid frontman, and the group won the hearts of countless moshing metalheads on the successful Gods of Grind tour, later documented on their Monkey Puss: Live in London live album and video. So with a stable roster composed of the group's original members, Entombed returned to the studio after the inspired tour and recorded an EP (Hollowman) and an LP (Wolverine Blues), which would only further their growing status as death metal's most important band. Ironically, just as Entombed had been crowned as the kings of death metal, these two releases in 1993 found them blatantly moving away from death metal's traditional conventions; their riffs were noticeably slowed down, the vocals were actually coherent, and the song structures were simplified into verse-chorus-verse arrangements.
So on the one hand, Entombed further wedged their way into the public consciousness by writing songs that appealed to those who couldn't handle the extremity of traditional death metal. Furthermore, by integrating obvious hardcore punk and classic hard rock influences into their metal, Entombed had created the most palatable death metal album to date - if one chose to still call it death metal. Yet on the other hand, the die-hard death metalheads wouldn't have it, criticizing the group for abandoning their roots and diluting their approach. Still, despite this initial criticism, as time passed, this reactionary response has proved to be just that - reactionary; Wolverine Blues and Hollowman have proven to be the compounded zenith of the group's vision, a perfect confluence of traditional death metal brutality with other influences that no death metal bands had ever accepted: the gritty proto-punk of the Stooges and MC5, the digestible, yet powerful, song structures of Black Flag and Black Sabbath, and the moderately paced aggression of Pantera and Corrosion of Conformity.
After reaching what many have seen as their zenith in 1993, Entombed again began to experience the same sort of instability that haunted them during the Clandestine era. First of all, the band struggled with label problems after leaving Earache (who then released a collection of rarities) and ultimately signing with the Music for Nations label. Secondly, though Andersson had participated in the recording of the To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth album in late 1996, he had become increasingly engaged with his other group, the Hellacopters; mid-tour in 1997 after completing the troubled album, Andersson left the group, which was a major loss for the group since he was a group founder, their main songwriter, and an amazing drummer. Ex-Face Down drummer Peter Stjarnvind then joined the group, and they finished their tour.
Struggling to cope with the loss of Andersson and his songwriting contributions, Entombed spent the greater part of 1998 writing and recording the material that would comprise their Same Difference album, along with some of the songs that would appear on the Black Juju EP. When Same Difference finally leaked into the public, it was met by mixed reviews. Similar to how Carcass faced substantial backlash after they had abandoned their death metal influences for an increasingly accessible format, Entombed also moved even further away from death metal conventions than they had on preceding albums. In fact, it's hard to even call the album a death metal effort. So after spending half a year on Same Difference and experiencing tremendous backlash from both fans and critics, Entombed took an opposite approach in 1999, loosely recording and mixing Uprising in less than three weeks; furthermore, this album found them returning to the raw sound of previous years and steered far clear of commercial tendencies, signaling a return to their roots. They enjoyed a successful tour with the reunited Iron Maiden, as well as performing their own shows throughout the tour.
After leaving the road, they immediately began work on Morning Star, a roaring return to the Wolverine Blues style of metal. Once again embracing their death metal past while latching on to their catchier songwriting style, the band sounded rejuvinated. During the making and promoting of the album, they also began work on a collaboration with the Swedish Royal Bellet Ensemble. That collaboration led to a series of performances, held between February and March 2002 at Stockholm's Royal Opera Hall, that found the band performing original material accompanied by 30 ballet dancers. The plan was to issue a DVD of the performances sometime the following year. In 2003, Music for Nations issued the 2-disc Sons of Satan Praise the Lord, which collected every cover song ever performed by the band over its 15-year career. A new LP entitled Inferno was to have dropped in spring 2003, but was pushed back to August when Music For Nations was bought and integrated into label behemoth BMG. Entombed did appear at various European music festivals that summer. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Music Guide