Scandinavian metal legends Entombed were at the forefront of the death metal uprising, releasing their influential debut, Left Hand Path, in 1990, just as the movement was beginning to proliferate internationally. By the time death metal had become a mass phenomenon in the mid-'90s, however, Entombed had begun experimenting with different approaches, sometimes to much acclaim (as in the case of Wolverine Blues) and occasionally to disregard (Same Difference). Nevertheless, it was the band's debut, Left Hand Path, that held up best over the years. Canonized as a death metal classic -- one of the earliest, in fact -- Left Hand Path's buzzsaw guitar riffs and varied tempos, in particular, differentiated Entombed from seminal Earache Records labelmates such as Napalm Death, Carcass, Terrorizer, and Morbid Angel, who, with their unrelentingly lightning-fast tempos and blastbeat drumming, were more in line with grindcore than death metal. Successive Entombed releases on Earache -- Crawl (EP, 1990), Stranger Aeons (EP, 1991), Clandestine (LP, 1991), Hollowman (EP, 1993), Wolverine Blues (LP, 1993) -- were well received on all counts; however, like many death metal bands of the time, Entombed had to endure a revolving door of bandmembership, most noticably in the songwriting department. To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth (1997) marked a couple major changes for Entombed: it was the band's first since leaving Earache (a celebrated indie with major-label ties) and establishing their own label, Threeman Recordings, and it also was the band's last to feature talented drummer/songwriter Nicke Andersson, who chose to focus full-time on his other band, the Hellacopters, for which he sang and played guitar. Consequently, Entombed languished for a couple years, though Uprising (1999), the first in a series of potent back-to-basics albums to follow throughout the ensuing decade, signaled a return to form (i.e., "death & roll," as it was coined).
The roots of Entombed lie in the band Nihilist, which was formed in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1987 by drummer/guitarist Nicke Andersson, guitarist Alex Hellid, and guitarist/bassist Leif "Leffe" Cuzner (each was around 15 years old at the time, born in 1972-1973). Nihilist recorded a number of demos between 1988 and 1989 (i.e., Premature Autopsy, Only Shreds Remain, Drowned -- all of which were compiled, along with session recordings, and released by Threeman in 2005 as Nihilist [1987-1989]), and these recordings included additional members: vocalist Lars-Göran Petrov (aka L.G. Petrov), guitarist Ulf "Uffe" Cederlund, and bassist Johnny Hedlund. Of particular note, the Only Shreds Remain demo, recorded over the course of two days in December 1988 at Sunlight Studios in Stockholm with producer Tomas Skogsberg, was perhaps the first death metal recording from Scandinavia to circulate widely among the underground metal tape-trading network that at the time was comprised almost exclusively of British and American bands. While opening for the Lee Dorian-fronted lineup of Napalm Death in Stockholm, Nihilist gave one of their demo tapes to a representative of Earache Records. Impressed, the label later offered the band a recording contract. Meanwhile, bassist Johnny Hedlund left Nihilist after the Drowned demo in August 1989, subsequently forming Unleashed, another Scandinavian metal pioneer. Guitarist/bassist Leif Cuzner had previously left the band, for his parents moved his family to Canada.
Nihilist disbanded after Hedlund's departure; with little hesitation, however, the remaining members -- Andersson (drums), Hellid (guitar), Cederlund (guitar), and Petrov (vocals) -- then chose to re-form as Entombed. With bassist David Blomqvist taking the place of Hedlund, the rejuvenated band returned to Sunlight Studios and recorded the But Life Goes On demo on September 23, 1989, once again working with producer Tomas Skogsberg. Shortly thereafter, Entombed was back at Sunlight working with Skogsberg, this time on their debut album for Earache, Left Hand Path (1990), which was comprised largely of reworked Nihilist songs. Bassist Lars Rosenberg joined the lineup after the completion of the album, on which Andersson and Cederlund were co-credited with bass. Of greater consequence, vocalist Lars-Göran Petrov left the band. Entombed in turn recruited Orvar Säfström of the band Nirvana 2002 to sing on Crawl (1990), a three-song EP. However, when it came time to record Clandestine (1991), Entombed's second album, drummer Nicke Andersson assumed the vocal duties; he also wrote the bulk of the album, earning sole or co-credit for each song. For purposes of touring, the band recruited another vocalist, former Carnage bassist Johnny Dordevic. Yet by the time Entombed embarked on the Gods of Grind tour (a showcase of Earache bands also including Carcass, Cathedral, and Confessor) in fall 1991, Petrov had reclaimed his membership as the band's vocalist.
With Petrov back in the lineup, the high-profile Gods of Grind tour behind them, and two acclaimed albums to their name, Entombed went about working on their third album, Wolverine Blues (1993). Once again written largely by Andersson, Wolverine Blues proved a significant departure from Entombed's previous efforts. For one, the band scaled back the velocity of their music, from the breakneck tempo shifts of their prior material (à la death metal) to a crushing mid-tempo groove (à la Pantera circa Vulgar Display of Power). Secondly, the band adopted more traditional verse-chorus-verse songwriting structures with memorable hooks. Plus, the vocals were comprehensible. These changes clearly set Entombed apart from their death metal peers, but the absolutely brutal delivery of the music, especially the signature buzzsaw guitars and Petrov's menacing vocals (more yelling than growling), also set the band apart from the mainstream. Moreover, Earache had aligned itself with Columbia Records, a partnership that promising indie cred with major-label distribution. The six-track Hollowman EP (1993) was the first Entombed release to benefit from the Earache/Columbia partnership; featuring an instrumental version of "Wolverine Blues," the EP drummed up significant interest in the forthcoming album. Released in two versions, one a Marvel Comics promotion featuring Wolverine from X-Men, Wolverine Blues sharply divided fans upon its release. Death metal purists abhorred the stylistic change in direction, while other fans were pleased to see the band push forward creatively into fresh territory, especially now that a legion of similar-sounding death metal bands had arisen in the wake of Left Hand Path. Even to this day, fans remain divided over Wolverine Blues; without question, though, the greater accessibility of the music did attract a new wave of fans to Entombed, and the album is generally acknowledged as a high-water mark for the band, as it would become a regular benchmark for judging the quality of future releases.
Following the release of Wolverine Blues, Entombed toured Europe with Napalm Death and released the Out of Hand single. Bassist Lars Rosenburg then left the band in 1995; Jörgen Sandström, the former bassist/vocalist of Grave, filled his slot. Among other changes, Entombed secured new management, left Earache, and signed to EastWest. This new label deal didn't work out, unfortunately: Entombed recorded a new studio album, but the label didn't release it and ultimately dropped the band for business reasons. The label woes endured by Entombed ultimately motivated them to form their own label, Threeman Recordings, and procure distribution deals for various regions (for instance, Music for Nations in the U.S.). To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth, the band's fourth full-length, was finally released in 1997; Earache concurrently released Entombed, a compilation of previously released non-LP material. To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth was well received (for example, earning a second-place vote in European magazine Metal Hammer's best-of-1997 poll, as well as earning the band a slot opening for Machine Head on tour) and was fairly similar in style to Wolverine Blues, though noticeably rougher around the edges and a little less memorable in terms of songwriting.
Andersson, the band's drummer and primary songwriter, left Entombed at this juncture, choosing to dedicate himself full-time to his other band, the Hellacopters, which was considerably acclaimed at the time. Drummer Peter Stjärnvind was brought in almost immediately, for touring commitments remained, carrying on well into 1998 (including the band's first North American dates since the Gods of Grind tour in 1991). Upon the completion of touring, Entombed worked with producer Daniel Rey on Same Difference (1999); not only was it the band's first album without Andersson's songwriting, but it was their first without Tomas Skogsberg's production. Largely written by guitarist Uffe Cederlund, Same Difference was a clear departure for the band, taking them much further away from their death metal roots than Wolverine Blues had. Whereas Wolverine Blues had divided fans, Same Difference reunited them in disregard, if not outright disdain. Earache once again released a back-catalog item concurrently, in this case Monkey Puss: Live in London (1999), a CD/DVD recording of Entombed from the European leg of the Gods of Grind tour, circa March 1992. An EP of covers, Black Juju (1999), was also released around this time, as Entombed returned to the road, touring with Meshuggah and Skinlab, respectively.
To relief of many fans and the praise of critics, Uprising (1999) signaled a return to form for Entombed, who recorded and mixed the purposefully raw album with producer Nico Elgstrand over the course of only 18 days. A tour of Europe and Canada in support of Iron Maiden followed, along with solo dates. Deemed a classic in some corners, Morning Star (2001) was a similarly raw-sounding effort, though considerably more dynamic in terms of tempo and mood; some likened it to the work of prime-era Slayer. In commemoration of Entombed's 15th anniversary, Threeman compiled Sons of Satan Praise the Lord (2002), a double-disc covers collection that was wide-ranging in source material (from Venom to Bob Dylan). Also in 2002, Entombed performed a special concert at the Swedish Royal Opera House with the Royal Ballet Ensemble; the performance was recorded and later released as Unreal Estate (2004). Co-produced by the band with Per Gunnerfeldt, Inferno (2003) was also similar in sound to Uprising and Morning Star (i.e., raw), though it too had its own peculiarities: a comparison was drawn to stoner metal by some, while others likened the rough-hewn production unfavorably to that of Metallica's ill-fated St. Anger (2003). Stateside editions included a bonus EP, Averno, comprised of extra material from the Inferno sessions, along with a couple videos. Besides a lot of touring during this period, Entombed experienced another round of departures: bassist Jörgen Sandström left in January 2004, replaced by Nico Elgstrand; guitarist Uffe Cederlund left in September 2005, going unreplaced; and drummer Peter Stjärnvind left in 2006, replaced by Olle Dahlstedt.
Now a four-piece, Entombed released the five-song When in Sodom EP on June 6, 2006 (i.e., 6-6-6), and the Serpent Saints: The Ten Amendments LP in 2007. This pair of releases -- the first new material from Entombed in three years, and without the songwriting of Cederlund, who had written most of the band's songs following the departure of Andersson -- fortunately found the band revitalized and as brutal as ever. In general, Serpent Saints was reviewed in glowing terms, with many critics declaring it on a par with Uprising and Morning Star. Candlelight USA, the album's stateside distributor, marketed it as "Entombed's best work since Wolverine Blues!" ~ Jason Birchmeier