We all have our own personal ‘Golden Age’, that period of time where it felt like everything that came out was perfect and aimed exactly at you – entire labels’ output would find its way into your CD/vinyl/cassette collection, every single release by individual bands would be essential purchases, whole runs of t-shirts and stickers, shorts, caps, pens and the like would have you salivating over the chance to throw your money at them. Mine was between 1986 and 1992, give or take – as an old-school thrash and death metal fan, its fair to say that era was ‘mine’ more than any other before or since. Of course I like a lot of music from the times before and after then, but THAT few years was ridiculous – Earache or Roadrunner logos meant an instant purchase, mere mention of Sunlight Studios or Morrisound ensured a record found its way onto my shelves, even Megadeth were yet to disappoint me (although that wasn’t TOO far away). At first listen, you’d imagine Entrails feel the same way about much the same era. Of course, some digging reveals that they were, in fact, around back then but never released anything! Reforming a few years ago to set this right, these Swedish deathsters are now on their second album since their belated resurrection.
The Tomb Awaits makes no secret of what it’s aiming to sound like, right down to the cover art and even the band’s logo having a very strong whiff of early Entombed about them. The chainsaw guitar tone is present and correct, the harsh but not unclear vocals are there, even the judiciously-placed ambient keyboards make an appearance! They don’t sound exactly the same, fortunately – more blast and less swing to Entrails‘ rhythm section, and deeper, gruffer vocalising than LG Petrov’s strangled holler make for a more outright death metal experience, more in the vein of Bloodbath or Carnage.
As you play through the album, the initial ‘only Swedish death metal, all the time’ layer actually reveals itself to be pretty superficial – there’s as much of the American old-school to this as anything else, with strong hits of Massacre shot through the lead guitar work (‘Eaten By The Dead’), and even some thrashy harmony riffs (‘Undead’) cropping up to offset the churning Stockholm-isms with a welcome dose of melody. Fans of latter-period Dismember or even Amon Amarth will get a lot from this – the headbang-inducing stomp both bands are known for is ever-present here, overlaid with plenty of tremelo-picked melodic guitars.
The real test of a record like this, for me, is “how does it stand up against stuff I’ve lived with for 20-odd years?”, and The Tomb Awaits acquits itself very decently indeed – it’s sufficiently different to any one band to give it its own voice, whilst having bags of the correct atmosphere to fit in very nicely indeed. I’ve started slipping the odd track from this into my Swedish death metal playlists quite happily, and I think you might too.