Published Aug 02, 2007"This is an album about the love of Lucifer, proclaims Entombed guitarist Alex Hellid in regard to the bands ninth studio effort Serpent Saints (Candlelight USA). Its not exactly a revelation. The closing track "Love Song For Lucifer points that out and in the grand scheme, such subject matter is not exactly a startling deviation for one of death metals most renowned acts.
Still, while Entombed are valued by headbangers around the world for pummelling aggression and perversely intelligent lyrics on some of the genres more respectable efforts such as 1990s Left Hand Path and 1994s Wolverine Blues, theyve been veering further and further off this track over the past few years. Albums have grown increasingly more rock-based and, to be blunt, less acclaimed.
However, with its starkness, raw power, bellowing vocals and sheer force, Serpent Saints feels closer to the aforementioned early efforts than anything Entombed have released over the past decade. It is fresh, invigorating and fucking heavy. Yet, while Hellid alludes to the familiar ground that Serpent Saints traverses, hes hesitant to deem these ten thick, brutal tracks a return to form.
"This isnt so much a back to our roots album as it is just a great metal record, he says. "The past few albums felt like a collection of songs singles but this has a flow. We focused on making this beast flow from start to finish by deciding that in our hearts, we wanted not a concept album, but something that was held together by a unified theme. Its easier to focus on the right things when you know what you want to do with an album. You can write and be in the proper mind frame to achieve what you want instead of songs being all over the place and struggling to fit them together in production.
Recognising how releases like 1999s Same Difference and 2003s were lacking in drive and focus, the band Hellid, vocalist L.G. Petrov, bassist Nico Elgstrand and drummer Olle Dahlstedt re-evaluated and sought out new inspiration. Hellid recounts how the rediscovery of Metallicas 1986 masterpiece Master Of Puppets aided them in formulating a cohesive outline for Serpent Saints.
"We were listening to Master Of Puppets and realised that when you hear an album such as that, theres no way you cant nod your head to it, he asserts. "We wanted to do that but also have good lyrics to go with it. Metallicas lyrics are as great as the music but sometimes they tend to go one way or the other: either you like the music and forget about the words or youre listening to what they say and dont know the riffs. But with an album like that, youre enthralled with every aspect of it. Thats what we wanted to achieve with Serpent Saints.
Mission accomplished thanks to grinding tracks dripping with reinvigoration. Foregoing the cumbersome weight of political themes that have crept into previous works not to mention Master Of Puppets but still intent on provoking fans to think, the ultimate subject of Serpent Saints had to be something the band understood quite well. Enter old friend Beelzebub.
Still, there was one issue to overcome: how to record without losing the fresh, infectious vibe or sacrificing sound quality. Opting for the realism of a demo-approach, each track of Serpent Saints was recorded moments after being written. Hellid notes that the bands jump-the-gun recording approach was instrumental in achieving the discs adrenaline-pumping excitement.
"We always change what we do when were recording to keep things interesting. This time we would record a song after only trying it a time or two, he declares. "It lends rawness to the record that we didnt have for a long time. Theres an energy you catch in demos that never carries over to the better recording. Youve played it too many times and while it sounds great, theres just something missing because you sacrifice it for quality. We wanted to capture that again.
At the same time, Serpent Saints is loud and clear while still abrasive and tough, far from lacking in regards to sound quality. Assisted by producer Neil Kernon (Judas Priest, Flotsam and Jetsam), Hellid feels the band may have realised their own Master-piece by spending "lots of time mixing and mastering but being quick at committing things to tape. "A lot of attention was paid to both production and writing. I know that doesnt sound extraordinary but bands generally tend to pay more attention to one over the other, he concludes. "Its like with [Master of] Puppets again: whether you hear that record on a car stereo or a club P.A. system, its always amazing. Everything works so well together. Some records sound great at home but shitty on a loud P.A. By taking the proper steps, we were certain that wed written great songs and then recorded them so that no matter where you hear it, your head will be nodding along too.