Friday, July 22, 2011

Vulgar Necrolatry: A Basic Amorphis/Entombed Shopping List

Entombed circa 1989
photo by Micke Lundstrom
Ever since Tuesday's post I have been immersed in Entombed and Amorphis. Immersed as in "pulling every album off the shelf and working through them ad nauseum in the car, at work and again at home." Both bands have in common origins on the Scandinavian peninsula, starts on legendary labels (Earache and Relapse) and Death Metal foundations. From there, though, aside from extensive discographies, they take fairly different trajectories. If, for any reason, you haven't checked out either band, the first two releases by both are must-haves. If you like what you hear, be prepared to grab some more.

Both bands roared out of the gate with one-two punches of classic records: Left Hand Path (1990) and Clandestine (1991) for Entombed and Amorphis' The Karelian Isthmus (1992) and Tales from the Thousand Lakes (1994). It's worth noting that three of these have had superb reissue treatment in recent years. Clandestine is available as a double-disc with the entire Monkey Puss (Live in London) DVD (which also features five music videos spanning "Left Hand Path" to "Night of the Vampire"). Relapse has treated both Amorphis entries very well, tacking the entire '93 Privilege of Evil EP to The Karelian Isthmus (a reissue I finally grabbed just this last week) and adding the non-LP tracks from the Black Winter Day EP from 1995 to Tales from the Thousand Lakes.

Amorphis circa 1992

In the case of Amorphis, these first two records can serve as a one-stop shop for most fans. The band added another vocalist, Pasi Koskinen, dedicated to "clean" vocals alongside Tomi Koivusaari and went in a very different direction starting with 1996's Elegy, bringing the band's folk elements to the forefront and forging a much more progressive sound. For some, this may really click. The unusual mix of folk and pop influences is not entirely out of left field given the fusion of many of these elements with melodic death metal basics on Tales... but it rarely has the head banging. I gave up on the band following Tuonela (1999) but, based on some intriguing reviews of their newest release, The Beginning of Times, I may just try to jump in and work backward a bit again.

Entombed, on the other hand, have nearly gone full circle. Beginning with the Hollowman EP and the following full-length Wolverine Blues (1993), they singlehandedly established the subgenre designation of "Death 'n' Roll." A hard, hard rock - almost Motörhead - approach coupled with Lars Petrov's distinctive growled vocals, Entombed struck a balance that was accessible, hooky yet still extreme. This progression served the band very well on the underappreciated DCLXVI: To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth (1997) which featured one of their best songs ever, "Like This with the Devil:"

Same Difference (1999) found the band wandering a bit too far from their roots after drummer/founder Nicke Andersson's departure to helm the Hellacopters full-time. The ship was righted with the brutal return to form of Uprising in 2000. Their sound now solidly defined as a ferocious heavy metal, Entombed settled into a massive groove and have produced a solid string of remarkable, quality records straight through 2007's Serpent Saints- The Ten Amendments with a new album already on the horizon.

Absolutely Essential Listening:

The Karelian IsthmusTales From the Thousand Lakes (Reis)
Left Hand PathClandestine (Bonus Dvd)
Wolverine Blues ReduxUprising
Morning StarSerpent Saints

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