GUEST BLOG: DARKEST HOUR GUITARIST MIKE SCHLEIBAUM ON THE MOST UNDERRATED ALBUMS OF ALL TIME: ENTOMBED’S UPRISING AND MORNING STAR
[In addition to writing and performing in New Wave of American Heavy Metal pioneers Darkest Hour, guitarist (and BS degree in Social Work!) Mike Schleibaum also writes for his own informative and funny website Ask The Dude. The dude himself contacted us about writing a guest blog for MetalSucks, and somehow in between his various other activities that actually, ya know, pay the bills, he somehow found time to do it. We hope he’ll be a regular contributor whenever time allows. Let us know what you think. -Ed.]
The Underrated: Entombed
Like many fellow dudes who have dedicated their lives to moshing hard and jamming heavy metal I find myself continuously on the hunt for new records that can make me feel the way I did the first time I heard Metallica’s Master of Puppets, At the Gates’ Slaughter of the Soul, or Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power. As age and experience wear away at me I find that sadly this feeling is harder and harder to obtain. I mean let’s face it, a good seventy percent of modern metal is total bullshit (and I think that’s me being nice since I know a few people are going to read this). Not only has the genre been raped by the mainstream and watered down by the internet, its safe to say that every Tuesday more and more “death metal” or “heavy metal” records hit the street here in the USA that have less and less to offer the genre and us listeners than ever before. I believe that metal actually doesn’t suck, and there are great metal bands out there who for whatever reason didn’t get the attention they truly deserve. The following is one dude’s opinion. I do not claim any of it as absolute truth but, if I can use this printed space for nothing more then to turn at least one more dude out there onto a record that has touched my life, then it was time well spent.
With that in mind let me turn the focus to one of my all time favorite metal bands, Entombed. Now there are some of you out there who just read this and are thinking, “Fuck this guy, Entombed is not underrated, they are known as one of the pioneers of Swedish Death Metal.” And to you dudes I say, “I know, but just hear me out.”
See last time I saw Entombed was at the worst club In the DC area, Jaxx in Springfield, VA. Now every city has a club like Jaxx, you know, a cheesy heavy metal club that’s no fun to attend and makes your stomach churn just thinking about supporting it. Shit, if you don’t believe me just look at how Jaxx’s website looks. But if we didn’t have a place like this then I am sure Entombed would have just skipped the DC area all together. So with my head hung low in bitter defeat I weaseled my way into the club. You know those of us who are addicted to metal, we’ll do anything to jam, even bend our morals.
To my surprise, the turn out was lame, maybe 200 kids (if I’m generous) and after a few minutes of talking with the dudes in the opening bands its sad to say they reported similar turnouts across the US. The turnout didn’t seem to faze the boys in Entombed. They swaggered onto the stage and punished each and every dude there! It was loud, it was fast, it was heavy, and it was perfect. Yet, I left the show feeling sad that there weren’t more fellow dudes there to enjoy such a fucking awesome band. Shit, me and four of my closest friends have dedicated our lives to playing metal for a living and here was a fucking killer band who wasn’t getting enough love. Look, when Entombed plays the US they fly here. That means we all as fans have to go to the show, otherwise they’re just not going to come back!
I have had the joy of seeing Entombed many different times. Once with Hatebreed in ’97 (I think it was but don’t quote me on that), once at one of the god-awful Milwaukee Metal Fests, another time at Jaxx’s, and even one time in Malmo, Sweden. Every time other then their Swedish appearance I felt this great band deserved more. Fuck, look at these jokes of bands that can fill rooms in America. It’s disgusting. So what’s wrong with the USA? Why isn’t Entombed slaughtering sold out shows in America? And then it dawned on me; they’re underrated. See, Amazing band – check, long history – check, amazing songs – check, not enough love – check, yeah all systems go for underrated-ness. OK, just, for now, at least give me the benefit of the doubt and say, “OK dude, this band deserves more, I mean they are after all, bad ass.” But I’m not going to try to sell you on one of their classic first records (and I know there are some elitist metal heads out there who think that everything the band put out after the Crawl EP went dow hill). Instead let me tell you about two great-underrated records from this great-underrated band!
First lets start with the Uprising record. Released in the USA in 2000, Uprising features twelve metal songs that will tear your fucking head off. Guess what kids, there’s no arpeggio sweeping on these records, no long prog rock bridges, and no pop sounding keyboards hidden underneath the riffs to make it more appealing to large audiences. I’m not saying all of those elements are bad, but Entombed only need to employ sick riffs, sick song structures, and most of all a sound that in death metal is distinctly theirs. The drums on Uprising sound raw and real. No doubt a drummer actually played them (instead of what is the norm today, with ProTools edited and triggered perfect drums). L.G.’s voice sounds raw as ever yet you can still tell what he is saying; it’s the perfect balance of screaming that makes the vocal approach dynamic and at the same time pissed as hell. My personal favorite thing about the record is the guitar sound, which is flawless. Entombed’s guitar sound has influenced many metal bands and even many hardcore/metal bands (Hatebreed, Converge, and even Every Time I Die to name a few). It’s not the scooped out midrange guitar of the late 90’s early 2000’s. And its not the ProTools copied and pasted note for note sound that has landed so many of today’s metal and metalcore bands on the cover of guitar magazines. Instead it’s raw as fuck, punishing to the bone, and most importantly a sound that’s all its own.
Oh wait, did I forget something, is there another instrument on the record? Let’s see, guitars, drums, vocals, that’s it right, oh no, what about bass guitar? That’s right, Entombed has a bass player and if you listen to most modern records you realize most modern metal records bury the bass in the mix ala And Justice for All. But not Entombed, no. Instead they take it to the next level and the bass is what really makes this band sound so heavy. Working in perfect unison with the guitars, drums, and vocals Entombed creates a sound that is both punk and metal. Both pissed and heavy. Both dark and raw. What you hear is the sound of a band pure and simple, and a damn fucking good one too.
Uprising will leave your ears bleeding and your mouth watering for more. From the opening riff of “Seeing Red” (this time with no intro) Entombed proves again they are the RIFF masters. And oh shit, guess what kids, there’s even a bass break to prove a bass player actually played on the record! But its not until track two, “Say it in Slugs,” that we hear one of the greatest Entombed riffs. Just check it out because no writing here can make you feel the way you do when you hear it all crash in, again, beautiful. Other stand out tracks include “Come Clean,” “Something out of Nothing,” and “Won’t Back Down,” but the whole record speaks together in pulverizing unison.
Not to be outdone by themselves, Entombed return two years later with 2002’s Morning Star. On Morning Star we hear the same raw, uncompromising production that defines Entombed’s sound and ensures their place in heavy metal history. The songwriting is classic “Death and Roll” and each song jams in such a way that mixes all the aggression and anger of modern metal with all the dirt and crust of real punk music. The opening track “Chief Rebel Angle” summons their return and when the song kicks in, it is just beautiful. The Slayer-esque riffing in “Young Man Nihilist,” the punk rock inspired “Year One Now,” and my personal favorite “About to Die” all grab you by the face and rip it off! Again the production complements the music perfectly. Now I am a fan of all sorts of different styles of Metal, but there’s something about Entombed’s rocked out, fuzzed out, distorted, live sounding death metal assault that grabs me like few other bands. Morning Star and Uprising both are great records from this great, seminal era of Swedish death metal.
So what the fuck, just go check’em out; they’re good records! These records may be a bit of a stretch from Entombed’s early sound, but come on, they started in the late 80’s/early 90’s so you have to give these guys room to evolve as musicians. I loathe talking to other metal fanatics such as myself and hearing them hate on bands for evolving or twisting their sound throughout the years. I for one am very thankful that Entombed stayed a band, still grow, still change, still push the envelope. Otherwise we might have some good old death metal records, but who knows, we may not even have had the band anymore at all! If we as fans don’t allow bands to morph musically then the artists that comprise our favorite bands may move on to form other bands or even leave the genre altogether. Every metal head out there should raise their metal horns and salute the past and current members of Entombed. They managed to survive for years in this fucked up industry, still put out punishing, powerful death metal, all the while pushing the genre forward by incorporating sounds of rock, punk, and crust. Entombed is real, raw, and in your face. There is nothing more metal then that. Uprising and Morning Star give all us metal brothers and sisters in shred, mosh, blast, grind, and riff reason to rejoice! Check these records out (or at least explore their catalog!) and prove to yourself that there maybe are one or two sick metal records you haven’t heard yet.
– The Dude