ENTOMBED A.D. has returned with their debut album, Back to the Front, out now on Century Media Records. And yes, I am fully aware of the syntax error I have just made; however, in this instance, that error would be correctly applied. I say this because, for those who are not aware, ENTOMBED A.D. is the successor of Swedish Death Metal band ENTOMBED, a group who spent a number of years on a perpetual hiatus. For the group’s members that wished to continue they altered the band name to fit this hybrid collection of new and original players.
Back to the Front is a very fitting title, as it provides a clear expectation for its listener. This is the “back to our roots” record that the original lineup would be making, IF they were still together. With a focus on traditional death and thrash sounds, this record is more likely to appease fans of the original group’s 1990 debut album, Left Hand Path, than those who embraced the more rock ‘ n roll metal sounds of the band’s latter records. And while this is a very competent record, full of the standard piss and vinegar one would expect of such an ensemble, ENTOMBED A.D. have failed to push the envelope stylistically. Moreover, the album lacks overall dynamic, keeping to a relatively unvarying pace throughout.
Lead track, “Kill to Live”, with its creepy music-box inspired intro sets the stride for the majority of the record; presenting a consistent tempo after the full band kicks in at the 1:35 mark. “Bedlam Attack” continues the uniform design, yet offers some great musical passages in the middle section. Subsequent tracks “Pandemic Rage”, “Second To None”, and “Bait and Bleed” seem to bleed into each other so much that in my three spins of the disk I had to watch when the CD changed in order to know it wasn’t one extended song. “Waiting for Death” offers the first noticeable increase in momentum since the album’s open, delivering a punching blow reminiscent of Bay Area Thrash, complete with a chant along gang vocal section. Unfortunately, the catharsis found in “Waiting for Death” is short-lived, as the second half of Back to the Front plays out much like a clone of the first side.
“Eternal Woe”, “Digitus Medius”, and even lead single “Vulture and the Traitor” fall short of offering any memorable passages. Nearing the end, “The Underminer” plays out much like “Waiting for Death”, an ironic notion, considering these are the two shortest songs featured on the record. It is only the closing track, “Soldier Of No Fortune”, where we see ENTOMBED A.D begin to play with shifting dynamics. It begins with a gorgeous melody, delivered by acoustic guitars and an accompanying piano. The intro escalates, adding distorted guitars in a dramatic crescendo, finally breaking the tension by delving into a mid-tempo thrasher.
Overall, it would be unfair to say that ENTOMBED A.D. flopped with Back To The Front, yet I would not declare the work to be an absolute win, either; instead, placing the album at a very solid place of mediocrity. For what it is, a throw-back to classic European Death Metal, the band has presented a viable, solid record with clean production, crisp guitar tones and a front of the mix vocal approach. But for my ears, that’s not good enough. I would like to see more of a juxtaposition to the boundaries set by the thrash/death metal complex. I feel that, as a listener, I deserve more, and I feel that you deserve more as well. If you’re looking for an LP that will play safely inside its parameters, this will be a great addition to your music collection; however, if you, like myself, yearn for something more expansive, then the debut from ENTOMBED A.D. will be less than captivating.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Kill To Live”, “Bedlam Attack”, “Waiting For Death”, “The Underminer”, “Soldier Of No Fortune”
WRITTEN BY MR. FRENCH CHEESE