Sunday, August 2, 2009

Entombed - Wolverine Blues (1993)

Entombed's third full-length, Wolverine Blues, is often looked at as the beginning of the end for this once-mighty Swedish Death Metal unit. It is on this record that they abandoned the pure Death Metal style, in favor of some Death/Rock sound. Oddly enough, this might have been necessary for them to remain relevant. While I disliked the production and the vocals, Clandestine was decent enough; however, it was a far cry from Left Hand Path. Perhaps, the band didn't have enough creativity to produce more albums that were in-line with their debut. There's another matter to consider: think of the sheer number of bands that had appeared, since the release of the first Entombed record. Several bands were in Stockholm, playing the same style that Entombed made famous and recording at the same studio, in an effort to achieve the same buzzsaw guitar sound. As with many artists who are mimicked to death, Entombed may have sought to distance themselves from the crowd.

I became aware of this album in an odd way, back in early 1994. Without the permission of the band, Earache Records made some deal with Marvel Comics to use the Wolverine character for the cover of the album, as well as advertisements. Being an avid reader of the Wolverine series, I took notice of this band that had his likeness on their album cover. The same was, probably, true of many other teenagers in the states, at least. Unfortunately for me, my first taste of Entombed came from a penpal of mine that included some tracks from this album on a mix tape that she'd made for me. To this day, those are among the few that I can even still listen to, having long since discovered the more vital of Entombed's works.

"Eyemaster" kind of explodes, possessing a lot of energy and speed. There are some decent riffs that wouldn't have been out of place on an earlier Entombed release, alongside some more relaxed riffs. Worth noting is that this album marked the return of L.G. Petrov, whose absence from Clandestine ruined that album for me. All in all, this is one of the more listenable songs on the album.

Already by the time "Rotten Soil" hits, I find myself checking to see when the album will be over. It's not without any merit, but the best riffs are fleeting, seeming to flow through with the swiftness of storm winds. This is the type of non-serious music that might be okay to keep one awake, when driving late at night and fighting exhaustion, but it's probably of more interest to a 13-year old that is just discovering the band, rather than anyone more fully acquainted with Entombed.

"Wolverine Blues" is another one of the songs that were featured on my tape, so it remains on of the more easily digested numbers. It has some sort of groove going on, but it seems to work. The song is intense and brief, which works in its favor. Regardless of the difference between this and the earlier stuff, it retains a strong metal feeling and is a decent headbanging tune.

As the album continues, I feel boredom coming over me. "Demon" is hardly worth mentioning, being over-simplified and not really worthy of much mention. "Contempt" has some nice riffs, in the first few seconds, but then goes into this kind of slow-paced groove nonsense that does nothing for me. The earlier riff returns, keeping me interested enough to try to stomach the rest. As the song progresses, there's some half-decent stuff. The lead solo isn't bad, either. This is the type of song that takes some time (and patience) to grow on you.

"Full of Hell" almost displays some small blues influence in the opening riff. Sadly, the vocals suffer from some sort of terrible approach. This is fairly lethargic and boring. So, we move on to "Blood Song", which starts out with a kind of sloppy execution of what could have been a decent riff. Already it's not as bad as the previous song, though it does feature L.G. doing some more experimenting with the vocals. The lyrics have a vampiric theme, so this would explain and actually justify what he's done here. Again, this is one of those songs that can grow on you, if you're just casually listening. The solo is adequate enough, as well.

Now, back to another song from this historical mix tape, "Hollowman". I think I'd totally hate this, if it weren't for the fact that I first heard it during a time when I was a little more open-minded. It's kind of difficult to describe. It is, definitely, dominated by a rock feeling. Actually, I'd compare it to Motorhead, in a way. It's not that serious; it just attempts to create something that rocks and that can be easily accessible, I'm guessing. There's an ominous riff, near the middle, but this passes. Either way, this is one of the better songs on the album, as far as I'm concerned.

"Heavens Die" sounds quite unfamiliar, as I rarely make it this far in the album before turning it off and moving on to something else. It features more mid-paced thrash riffs, giving some unholy groove to the Swedish Death Metal guitar sound. This isn't a great song, but it's certainly near the top of the list, compared to the others on this album.

The final song is "Out of Hand", which is only consistent in its ability to bore me to tears. Logic dictates that a band wants to begin and end an album with their strongest songs, so as to make a good first and last impression, even if the rest of the record is filled with half-developed ideas. However, Entombed leaves us on a sour note.

Wolverine Blues is half-passable, at best. Some songs can be enjoyable, if you're in the right mood, while some others are awful, no matter what. This is not essential, by any means, but it's not completely bereft of good ideas. I wouldn't recommend that anyone go buy this, unless it's in the $1 bin.