Entombed, “Left Hand Path” (1989)

Entombed - Left Hand Path
Artwork by the mighty Dan Seagrave!

Nostalgia is a wet dog. I still love her, she’s my dog and all that, but she smells like the bottom of a zombie port-a-potty and insists on drying out by rolling on the couch of Corinthian leather. One of the cool things about listening to these old albums is getting that weird feeling that comes from taking a deep, long hit of pure nostalgia. Mmmm, so good! Yes, yes… remember? I was in college studying Medieval English Literature when Entombed’s debut came out! I was skinny! I wore glasses! Everyone else was listening to Jane’s Addiction!

For some of the items we review on this site, I have clear memories of “the first time”, if you will. Left Hand Path is one of those. I suspect that like many of you, I spent a fair amount of time browsing the stacks at a record store. There was no Tower Records in Tallahassee but there was Vinyl Fever, staffed by drugged addled, burnt out husks of humanity who were, as I recall, fantastically unhelpful unless I wanted to score some low-grade X in the alley behind the store. One day I was flipping through the cassette tape boxes, in the “E” section. Erasure. Emerson Lake and Palmer. Eno. Entombed.

Entombed. Hmm. Never heard of them. Left Hand Path. Ooo, I know what that means, I’m hip, I’m with it, I know my LaVey and Crowley. Nice art work on the cover, I mean, nice if you think all things dark and gloomy and have a whiff of grave stench on them are “nice”, which I did at the time. Song titles: “Drowned”, “Revel in Flesh”, “Supposed to Rot”, “When Life has Ceased.” Sounds like fun! For a twenty-two year old living in the the sun-baked swamp of north Florida, surrounded by the beautiful people, I had the cultural tastes of  grave-robbing necrophagist.

Buy the tape. Get in the car. Pop it into the cassette deck. First few seconds: screams. Perfect! Then the music starts. First thing I noticed: guitar tone. I mean, there is distortion and down tuning and then there is Entombed distortion. Meaty. Chunky. Bubbling fat. A shit rain of sonic abuse. A genre defining tone which hundreds of bands used as the stepping off point, but at that time, this was the only one band I’d heard that had this unique tone (apparently the result of an old Boss DS-1 and Boss HM2). No idea what the singer is yowling about. Who cares? I’m driving now through downtown Tallahassee, on my way back out to the farmhouse. The title track ends in… the theme from “Phantasm”? Yes it is. I know my horror flicks. Well that’s it, this is my new favorite band.

Next song. That guitar tone again, a buzz saw through rotting flesh. Singer howling about something-something evil. Repeat same for “Revel in Flesh” and on through the rest of the album. What a rush. Never heard anything quite like it. It was that moment where I found something and never knew I was looking. This was beyond the stale metal scene; heavier than thrash, filthier than glam, stupider than alt-grunge-whatever. It was music that would have my mother questioning my sanity. As it turned out, Mom enjoyed cleaning house to death metal. Apparently dusting and “When Life has Ceased” go hand in hand. Who knew?

I’m listening to this again right now as I type. It’s been a few years since I’ve heard it but when “Supposed to Rot” drops, yeah, I get that positive affirmation in my gut. Time has been kind to this album. If some kid were to ever ask—and they never do—what is a defining moment in death metal, Left Hand Path seems like a perfectly good touchstone. These days the band has shattered into different groups each claiming to be “the” Entombed. I don’t have a shit to give about all that. I just used up all my shits listening to the old stuff.