Are The Bowels of Earth Fit For a King, Or Full of Excrement? – An Entombed A.D Review
If you have to be shat on, what better way, what greater honour, than to receive thy filth shower from the bowels of the Earth itself? The central sewage systems of Agartha—Cloaca Agartica, if you will—raining upon you like it’s Christmas in August. There’s just one thing, boy. Planets are big. Big like eating-your-vegetables-everyday will never get you. They’re big like eating everybody’s vegetables everyday and all the time could theoretically get you in a gazillion years (true hypothesis). And things that big are going to shit big too. The toilets ov hell will be overflowing, I tell you, and Satan shan’t know what hit him until it’s a black ‘n brown shower o’ sludge all over his face. There’s going to be so much of it, it’s gonna take a regular-ass-Indiana-Jones-explorer-slash-grave-robber type operator to find a riff amidst the excrement.
By now everyone knows why Entombed A.D carries the suffix. After the band decided to continue without Alex Hellid, reportedly the one responsible for the band’s lack of activity, the latter quickly compiled a group of individuals who had literally not given a rat’s ass about Entombed in decades and filed a lawsuit, suddenly everyone being very worried that their intellectual legacy was being shat on, forced the group of men whom had actually tended to that legacy for the past few years to add the two letters, and promptly proceeded to shit on said legacy themselves with an orchestral rendition of Clandestine. It’s since been released three times, but was definitely not an old man nostalgia cash grab, nuh uh.
Or maybe what transpired was not at all like that which has been most widely reported. Whatever it was has no bearing whatsoever, literally no one cares. At the very best, the drama only serves for a luxurious filler paragraph or two when the need arises. Which is not to say that this, or the previous one, would be a filler paragraph—such is my mastery over the word that I could meticulously examine the most trite detail and somehow make an interesting one-thousand-and-seven-hundred-word-long essay about it. I just, uh, have so much to say about the topic at hand, that we’ll leave it to another time.
Meanwhile, Petrov, Elgrand, Dahlsted and Brandt have kept busy touring and recording three albums and an exclusive split’s worth of material since their forcible 2014 inception. A most formidable feat, considering Brandt and Petrov have both been active in death metal (ugh) “supergroup” Firespawn, who also put out their third full-length this year, all this time.
Take into consideration that their debut was a bloated, forgettable mess of ideas not always good enough for single b-sides, and the sophomore was cut almost into half the length, yet only managed to produce one decent/good song—the hangover rock and/or roll of “Down To Mars To Ride”.
My anticipation for Bowels of Earth was neither great nor eager, even if I did find last year’s “Fit For A King” single, now coursing through Earth’s bowels as well, closer to a decent track than almost anything put out under the moniker before. Very little greatness in their back catalogue, and Firespawn’s Abominate being two months old weren’t the best of starting points, and even though freshly appointed second guitarist Guilherme Miranda is credited on the record, so is Victor Brandt, who left the band well into last year to focus on Dimmu Borgir; his actual input on the record remains a matter of debate, and was hardly a selling point.
The contents of these bowels, however, are not up for debate. It’s the same old death ‘n roll Entombed was popping veins over trying to squish out of their posterior well before the suffix made itself known. The simple and predictable, standard-fare compositions run through base swedeath-tremolo riffs, alternating with groovier chugs aiming to compel through their straightforward catchiness, though many of the riffs lack such quality of memorability that would render them “catchy” in any sense of the word.
Even though the weight would seem to lie heavier on the side of death than “n roll” this time around (which, to be fair, it mostly has since the Great Splittening of 2014) it’s the grooves and overt structural simplicity that continue to separate Entombed A.D’s body of work from the early, glory days of Left Hand Path and Clandestine.
Nevertheless, Bowels of Earth is off to a decent start: opener “Torment Remains,” in its blissfully sub-three minute length, pits burly HM/swedeath tremolo riffs with chunkier rhythm guitars in a move that oddly seems to almost subdue the leads in the mix, but ends up sounding good. Petrov focuses on the gravelly bark he’s best known for, and the slowed down mid-section before the solo serves this simple, sweet and short rager well. Though likely the finest song Entombed A.D has produced, its lack of memorability that would ensure longevity also highlights the band’s issues with songwriting—nothing sticks. The follow-up “Elimination” is a serviceable, similar song with some neat, melodic leads before the solo that prove an album highlight, but are ultimately far too brief to make a difference on a larger scale.
Death ‘n roll as an influence is scarcer on the record than on its predecessors, lurking on many of the songs, but barely ever dominating. “Hell Is My Home” is one of the two exceptions and a fun (if forgettable) romp designed to be taken in intoxicated at some festival grounds, a feeling that the rest of the album does not seek to avoid entirely either.
The cycle begins anew as the title track offers another almost memorable cache of melody before a solo, and “Bourbon Nightmare” dwells back into the d’nr influences with significantly diminished results. By this time, the album has settled into a toneless groove of dullness that the aforementioned “Fit For A King” is unable to break from, despite its relative goodness. The rest of the record glides by never truly stooping into outright badness, but without leaving much of a mark, right until its closer “To Eternal Night,” a lengthy track that would have served Bowels of Earth much better at the halfway point.
Somewhere amidst its songs lies a cover of Hank Williams’ “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive,” but so far I haven’t been able to keep my thoughts from wandering so that I would locate it. Though the arrangement should be commended—it very much sounds like a part of Entombed A.D’s repertoire, and not like a trite note-for-note retelling that sticks out like a sore thumb—it just does what 99% of “good” covers do.
Entombed A.D has never been more consistent than they are on Bowels of Earth, and much of it is among their best material. Unfortunately that isn’t saying much, and even if the songs on their own manage to avoid dullness, already in small doses it begins to settle in. A decent, and at best fun, but ultimately forgettable romp through mildly d’nr infested swedeath waters.
2.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell