Well, the dust has well and truly settled on the whole “who is Entombed?” spectacle now, with this, the second album from ex-Entombed alumni coalescing around the name “Entombed A.D.” in a permanent line up. I was quite taken with “Back to the Front”, when it was released in 2014, and having caught the band live at Bloodstock that year, really enjoyed them playing together as a band. After all this time, does L.G. and crew have what it takes to live up to their own and their former band’s lofty reputation?
Yup. If anything, “Dead Dawn” is a more solid release than their first effort, sounding more confident and self-assured, and willing to open up the template a bit wider than the more tightly constrained predecessor. This is as much a death and roll (remember that, fellow metal-fans-of-a-certain-age?) album as it is an old-school Swedish death metal album. I, for one, salute that, given that there are now probably more bands aping that sound than there were in the early nineties. A perfect example is third track, “Down to Mars to Ride”, which has a swaggering, almost punk-inspired undertone and rock-credentials, married with some creepy “Clandestine”-era melodies that combine to bring a perfect collision of everything this crew can do best. It also features one of the tastiest guitar solos that any version of Entombed – past or present – have ever produced, with a Fast Eddie Clark-esque slab of rocky arrogance screaming away until the very end. “As the World Falls” lumbers around like Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, equal parts muscle and belligerence, a leaden-paced, thick-blooded stomper that is sure to produce involuntary metal-grimaces in the live arena.
It isn’t all re-invention mind; “Total Death” does what it says on the label, sounding as if it could have quite easily come from the Nihilist demos, aside from, of course, the immaculate production values. “The Winner Lost” truly astounds, with its foundation in NWOBHM riffing, sounding all the more weird for having that guitar tone, alongside the kind of soaring, triumphant melodies that you’d probably expect more of Chris Amott than Nico Elgstrand. It really does sound as if it had dropped off from an early Arch Enemy album, and been dipped in Boss-HM2 sauce. “Hubris Fall” is a weird, semi-ballad with a sickening, churning bass line and some atmospheric music-box melodies alongside the verses. By the time album closer “Not What It Seems” had finished, (an apt title, if ever I saw one), I was amazed at how far the band has come in the space of one album. Yes, this is unmistakeably a version of Entombed – name be damned – and the trademark elements are all there – the huge bass, the powerful, bluesy drumming and the guitar tone that can strip paint from a continent away, not to mention the individual shouting of L.G., but there is also a playful spirit of experimentation that has seen them not just embrace the earliest aspects of the band, but also build upon the totality of their careers, and then some.
There are also a number of new classics on this album, which has been on heavy rotation in the week since I’ve had it. “The Winner Lost” should go in the pantheon of tracks that live audiences crave to see the band play, and given the embarrassment of riches at their disposal, this is no mean feat. It’s a cracker, and were I a founder member of the name “Entombed”, I might be inclined to give it back to this band on the strength of this showing. The definitive sound of Entombed in 2016.
(8.5/10 Chris Davison)