ENTOMBED’S Left Hand Path Celebrated As We Mourn Passing Of L-G Petrov
March 13, 2021, a month ago
The metal world was shocked recently when it found out that Lars-Göran “L-G” Petrov, vocalist in Entombed and then Entombed A.D., among several others, had died at only 49 years old. The vocalist had announced that he had incurable bile duct cancer last year. As such, BraveWords is re-examining Entombed’s classic and genre-defining debut album, Left Hand Path.
At some point you start to wonder about things, and sometimes this writer wonders whether Swedish death metal, or even metal in general, would have been the same had Left Hand Path never been written. It’s hard to overstate how influential Left Hand Path was on its release in June, 1990. Unless you had been in the know via tape-trading demos (remember the TDK D90?) - and this writer wasn’t, at least not in 1990 - about Nihilist, the initial incarnation of Entombed, you probably hadn’t heard the almost instantly iconic Swedish death metal sound yet. So, in 1990, as Left Hand Path’s introductory moments spun, that fire-on-fire guitar solo gave way to a guitar sound that would spawn infinite imitators and inspire bands even to this day, over 30 years later. The completely unique guitar tone, reportedly discovered/pioneered by former Entombed bass player Leif Cuzner (RIP) by turning all the knobs to maximum on the Boss HM2 pedal, was the star of the show then, and its impact and legacy hasn’t faded, at all, in the present day. But equally impactful, and occurring almost immediately after that inspired and inspiring guitar solo (with the underlying guitar tone), were LG’s vocals.
In a world of interchangeable death metal growls, LG’s vocals stood out. When you listen to any of the classic Entombed albums (and even some of the latter-day, underrated ones like Uprising and Morning Star), LG’s presence makes itself known, quickly: his vocal performances were immediate, powerful, and surprisingly discernible for death metal. Uniquely, his vocals were also quite varied and skillfully able to match the different vibe and direction of each Entombed album. In short, his performances stood out.
And stood out he did on Left Hand Path. From the moment it begins, the listener knows this is no mere generic death metal album as the LP starts with the vigour of its title track, which is one of underground metal’s most classic moments (a musical pinnacle on which Swedish death metal is based). And LG’s vocals, at once pained and scorned, are central to “Left Hand Path”’s musical commemoration of its genre. That said, the most perplexing part of “Left Hand Path” might be the wholly unexpected turn it takes at the 3:49 mark. While those keyboards seemed as out of place back in 1990 as they do today (and the band seemed to realize it too, replacing them with a corresponding guitar part during live shows), it’s LG’s screams that frame the out of place keys, making even that misstep Entombed-like.
Despite that small keyboard misstep, the story within the story with Left Hand Path is just how consistent it is. The album is not only relentless, but the element of its consistency that gets overlooked is how many classic and invincible riffs are found within each track. 30 years later, listening to Left Hand Path is like playing a game of What Point In Your Life Were You At When That Riff Made Its Mark? This game is, clearly, a figment of imagination, but Left Hand Path’s innumerable classic riffs act as a catalogue of life lived (is that an irony of the genre called ‘death metal’?). And even LG’s vocals are a part of the riffs, his intonation acting as a complementary instrument to those Boss HM-2 drenched guitars. It’s a skill he’d go on to use again effectively on Wolverine Blues and subsequent albums, but that’s another story for another time.
So, yes, if Left Hand Path is full of burned-into-the-memory riffs, are there any more memorable than those that open “Drowned”, “When Life Has Ceased”, and “Bitter Loss”? (The surreal and equally iconic Sunlight Studio production that encases them only adds to the lore, of course.) When put into context - Left Hand Path’s 1990 release date precedes even such unquestionable pillars of metal such as Human, Focus, and Arise, to name but a few - the riffs seem even more vibrant and impactful. But, like we said above, let’s also not forget that LG’s untameable vocal style contributed to the immutable musical quality of these songs. There’s really no other vocalist that could have made Left Hand Path what it was, and what it is.
According to a statement from his Entombed A.D. bandmates, LG once responded in an interview about what his legacy might be and what he wanted inscribed on his grave with these words: “I will never die, it will never die.” As Left Hand Path plays (and plays again), and then Wolverine Blues and the rest of the Entombed and Entombed A.D. catalogues follow it, LG’s words almost prophetically describe his artistic impact on the metal world.