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"The Monsters of Swedish Death Metal" - Tribute to Entombed's Left Hand Path (1990) and Clandestine (1991)

by Luxi Lahtinen

Starting out as Brainwarp in 1987 then becoming Nihilist (1987-1988) before eventually changing their name to Entombed, a fine part of the Swedish underground metal music scene was written in the history books when the band's groundbreaking and revolutionary albums, Left Hand Path (1990) and Clandestine (1991, were released by Earache Records. Without a doubt, those albums represent important and essential cornerstones of Swedish death metal history and indisputably both have influenced and inspired many new (death metal) musicians over the decades.

We here at the headquarters of The Metal Crypt are always keen on celebrating meaningful bands and albums. This time we chose to pick these two Swedish death metal monsters and asked several musicians for their thoughts about them. Read on to find out how Left Hand Path and Clandestine have left permanent marks on peoples' minds!

All interviews conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Thanks to everyone who participated in this special feature

How have Left Hand Path and Clandestine influenced you within your band(s), either in the past or in recent times? Which of these two records is more important and closer to you personally and why?

Markus Makkonen (SADISTIK FOREST/NERVE SAW): Well, a metalhead growing up in the early to mid-'90s could not avoid Entombed. It was quite impossible as they were so influential and so huge was their role in underground metal circles back then. Those Earache albums at that time, the category in which the early Entombed records were part of, simply and quite single-handedly shaped my view of how death metal should sound and how it should be performed. The sound of Entombed would be a very important thing as they really had their say in that department. Whereas Sadistik Forest has never been an HM-2 band, Nerve Saw has that pedal all over the record. And as even though Sadistik Forest is not about the Entombed sound, we have always been about the groove. Death metal just has to have a groove to it to work. Entombed had it, even when they were going for your throat constantly and it was a big lesson for us in Sadistik Forest on how it should be done. The groove is also the main reason I will pick Clandestine as my favorite of these two. It is groovier! It is not just straight 2-beat all the time, though there is hardly anything wrong with that.

Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT): I first heard Left Hand Path when Kevin Sharp (soon to be the vocalist of Brutal Truth) played me an advance of the album he had due to his connections in the music industry as a journalist at the time. He used to walk around with these huge headphones he had hooked up to a personal CD player. One night I ran into him at a crowded, noisy bar, and he said, "Dude, you gotta check out the newest Earache signing!" He then popped the headphones on me and let 'er rip. I was immediately stunned by the gnarly gruesome guitar tone. I also found it interesting that Earache had signed them considering that, at the time, with exceptions like Godflesh, it was a label known for full-on full-speed grindcore, and Left Hand Path is mostly what we called good old "Slayer speed." Anyway, I can say that this record was definitely an influence on the early Brutal Truth material before we started expanding our sound and incorporating noise and crust into the mix.

Clandestine was also a great album, but by the time it came out it would have been less of an influence on what I was doing at the time, so I'll say that Left Hand Path is more important to me only because it had more of an impact as an influence.

Robin Holmberg (IMPERISHABLE): Both albums have, of course, had a huge influence on our overall sound and they will always have a special place in my heart. However, I personally think that Left Hand Path is the obvious choice when it comes to choosing which one is the "better" record. Clandestine has its upsides, but the predecessor has it all. LG was the voice of his generation, and he outdoes himself on Left Hand Path. Compare it to Clandestine where he's not a part of the band anymore. Easy. Both are totally mind-blowing albums to this day, though.

Lasse Pyykkö (HOODED MENACE): My bands, especially Claws and Vacant Coffin, were very influenced by both of those Entombed albums. There's definitely some of that Entombed style riffing and groove in there. I'd say Left Hand Path is more important to me because, well, it's a pretty flawless Swedish death metal album and it came out at the right time for me. There is a certain magic to that record, and I admit, I feel pretty nostalgic about it. You know, it is a real milestone album from those exciting and inspiring times, and I feel lucky having been there. Clandestine was a jaw-dropping release as well with slightly more ambitious songwriting, more professional production work and an insanely tight and creative drumming performance from Nicke, but the vocals were disappointing, though I learned to like them. I never cared too much about the stuff they put out after Clandestine. For me, Entombed is these two albums plus the demo days.

Toni (WORTHLESS): Both records have influenced the music I've been playing for about 30 years now. I think Entombed's debut record is more important to me because I started playing death metal with my band here in Finland around the same time.

Jonathan Verstrepen (CARNATION): For me Left Hand Path was the main reason I started my journey with Carnation. I was at a festival here in Belgium around the year 2010. There was a local band using the famous HM-2 pedal. That was the first time I was really blown away by a guitar sound. I had to know where that sound came from. So, the next day I did some research over the Internet and came across the famous Left Hand Path album. That same week I bought my first Boss HM-2 pedal and started experimenting with it.

David Nilsson (FERAL): Both albums were fundamental in the early years of Feral, even though our first album probably was more stylistically influenced by Wolverine Blues. But the sound of these two was mind-blowing! LHP is the one I probably hold the highest. It is very immediate, and if you don't get it right away this style is probably not for you.

Clandestine is more intricate, with more twists and turns and very interesting song writing that has been a very big influence on us in later years.

Per-Olov Wester (DAEMONICUS): There's no secret that we in Daemonicus have always been very drawn to the sound that those two albums have. To me that's the best music in the world and exactly the music I want to play and in some small way be a part of and contribute to the scene. Clandestine is to me the superior album. The songwriting is just outstanding on that one. Pretty damn impressive work coming from 18–19-year-olds. That blows my mind just thinking about it! The sound is so much more balanced on Clandestine compared to Left Hand Path but, on the other hand, the sound is a bit more ferocious and in your face on Left Hand Path. I mean how do you not fall in love with the HM-2 pedal after hearing the opening riff on "Drowned" with deafening volume? I do love them both, of course, but as I said, Clandestine is the one closer to my liking.

I lost my shit once I heard the opening riff on "Living Dead." Clandestine is one of those albums where you don't just casually listen to one of the songs off it. No, you play the album in its entirety! That's it! I also have to add that I really wanted to name my daughter "Evilyn." I mean, how cool is that? Somehow, I got voted down on that.

Nattskog (GARDEN OF EYES): How have Entombed's first two albums influenced Garden of Eyes? Well, Left Hand Path is one of those records I never tire of and represents the perfect Swedish death metal style, in my opinion. I am much closer to the debut (though Clandestine is cool) as it is far more savage, especially thanks to the late LG Petrov's superb vocal performance. The effect is a landslide of superb death metal. Their influence on Garden of Eyes is just one tiny piece of the puzzle but even our other influences such as Dismember, Interment, Nirvana 2002, etc. all have Entombed to thank in some way!

Jonas Lindblood (PUTERAEON): Both albums have been inspirations for my whole musical journey. They are both milestones and a huge part of growing up.

Jonny Pettersson (HUMAN HARVEST): Both albums have had a big impact on me as a songwriter. The structure of the songs with the mix of death metal and punk and, of course, the groundbreaking production.

Christofer Barkensjö (LIK): They are two extremely important and influential albums for us within Lik, especially Clandestine. Hearing these two masterpieces while growing up was totally mind-blowing!! But I have to put Clandestine as my favorite of the two, but it is close.

I still listen to Clandestine on a monthly basis. Amazing album all around! It's the whole atmosphere, sheer brutality and that certain finesse it holds that all speak to me. The drum parts are amazing by themselves and have been super-inspiring to me and still are. I wish it was me who played those tasty drum parts on that record... ;o)

Mika Hankaniemi (GOD FORSAKEN): Clandestine is a great album, but Left Hand Path is one of my faves from the Swedish death metal scene. You just can't forget those songs, the sound (HM-2 Boss pedal) and Lars Petrov's unique voice. Actually, it was a bit of a shock to realize that LG was out of the picture during Clandestine because his growling and stage presence killed every time. R.I.P. L-G.

Necros (UNDEAD PROPHECIES): I was lucky enough to discover three of the most important death metal albums during the same period. None other than Altar of Madness, Consuming Impulse and Left Hand Path. Those masterpieces laid the foundation for death metal as we know it today. The albums were really brutal, shocking even, but in a good way. Everything was new back in those days, from the sound and the production to the compositions, imagery within lyrics and illustrations, et cetera. To be honest the way those albums were made is the reason why they are still references for many other death metal albums today. It was not only about Entombed's innovation but everything else as well that made those albums such cornerstones of the death metal genre.

Would you say Left Hand Path and Clandestine had a revolutionizing effect on the whole death metal scene?

Markus Makkonen (SADISTIK FOREST/NERVE SAW): Yes and no. "The Swedish sound" has definitely been hugely influential, but it was created by several bands, to be honest, not just by Entombed/Nihilist alone. Dismember, Grave, Carnage, Edge of Sanity and many others had their say in the establishment of it, but I would dare to say that Entombed were a gateway for many to get into the sound. So yeah, without Entombed, I'd say there would be far fewer people raving about that phenomenon these days.

Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT): I think that's fair. I'd say a lot had to do with that aforementioned nasty-ass guitar tone, which I later learned was using a Boss HM-2 with all knobs set to 10. If you define revolutionizing as having a huge impact on a genre by pioneering a certain aspect of it (in this case that guitar tone) then hell yeah man. Like An Everflowing Stream, I'm looking at you here.

Robin Holmberg (IMPERISHABLE): Without a doubt. If not internationally, then most certainly in Europe. I don't believe they were as revolutionizing as, say, Death, or maybe Morbid Angel, but they took those influences and went places no one would have expected. And of course, the whole HM-2 thing is in a category of its own, creating a whole new genre within the realm of death metal, the way I see it.

Lasse Pyykkö (HOODED MENACE): That buzzsaw guitar tone and songwriting influenced a ton of bands back in the day and the influence has remained strong to this day. I mean, you could basically say this style and sound has been done to death by now, but it never seems to go away, and that speaks volumes about the enormous effect that these albums have had.

Toni (WORTHLESS): Definitely! Swedish death metal bands were closely followed by fans at the time, and they certainly influenced bands around the world. Entombed and their sound was something new and totally awesome!

Jonathan Verstrepen (CARNATION): I think Entombed is the most influential death metal band of all time together with Morbid Angel.

It's unbelievable how many bands are using the HM-2 pedal these days, just to get that classic Entombed sound. That's what we did as well. But we didn't want to have exactly the same sound and did some experimenting with both guitars having a different sound. Our other guitarist is using a more "At-the-Gates" sound and that combined with my HM-2 sound made it a little different and made our sound as a band more personal.

David Nilsson (FERAL): Certainly! These two albums are among the fundamental cornerstones of the Swedish death metal genre/scene. The fact that Swedish death metal has become a genre in and of itself speaks of their importance, and I cannot imagine they haven't left their mark on death metal as a whole.

Per-Olov Wester (DAEMONICUS): I would absolutely agree that those albums had that effect and still do in a big way! I would even take it a bit further if you let me. If you could compress every album ever made within the German power metal genre and squeeze out the two defining albums to represent them all, you'd have Keeper 1 & 2. Doing the same magic compression trick on the death metal genre and you'd be left with Left Hand Path and Clandestine in my opinion.

Nattskog (GARDEN OF EYES): The effect of these albums speaks for itself. I cannot imagine a death metal fan who doesn't feel excited when they see even a small part of one of those iconic Seagrave artworks, hear the ripping HM-2 guitar sound or just feel that gut-wrenching Swedish death metal butchery. If this isn't a revolution in sound, I don't know what is. But to me, yes, this band was the heart of one huge movement that still holds strong today.

Jonas Lindblood (PUTERAEON): Yeah, I think so. As I said they were both very important to me and I don't think that my opinion differs much from the rest of the people who were there back in the day.

Jonny Pettersson (HUMAN HARVEST): For sure, they created a whole new subgenre within the death metal scene. Even now years later they inspire not only death metal bands, but bridge over to hardcore and other genres.

Christofer Barkensjö (LIK): Absolutely, hands down! I'd say without those two albums the Swedish death metal scene would sound and look totally different.

Necros (UNDEAD PROPHECIES): They had a pretty revolutionary effect on the death metal genre overall. I think it was because of two things; the top-notch songwriting and killer production. If you listen to some newer death metal albums, there are so many different bands and styles, and actually you might find some sounding like a carbon copy of Entombed. But they were precursors. They influenced the genre with those two magnificent and highly appreciated albums.

How would you rank those two Entombed albums among other death metal classics? Have you started to appreciate these albums more the older you have gotten, knowing how much impact they have had?

Markus Makkonen (SADISTIK FOREST/NERVE SAW): Clandestine has definitely been growing on me over the years. The more I learned about playing in a band and playing death metal, the more my appreciation for it grew. There is a certain undisputed magic in that one. Drive, groove and ambition. Young men wanting to put out an album that is almost like a statement. "We are Entombed, and this is what we can do. Watch out muckers!"

They're surely essential listens for anyone who wants to find out what death metal in the '90s was. That I can say without a doubt. I could pick up some later classics in the rotten family tree of death metal that would have never happened if there had not been Entombed doing it first. Sentenced to Life by Black Breath comes to mind. The Tomb Awaits by Entrails is another. Both absolute classics! But yeah...! There are tons of them out there that would not have been the way they are without these two Entombed albums.

Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT): I'd say these two albums occupy a well-deserved space in an imaginary "Death Metal Hall of Fame." Of course, I'd met these guys wayyyyy back then and knew them pretty well, so I knew that they were fully dedicated to their craft and weren't fucking around. I enjoy these albums as much as I ever did, although it's a little more bittersweet these days for obvious reasons.

Robin Holmberg (IMPERISHABLE): I rank them very high, but it's impossible to compare different scenes, I think. What Entombed did in Sweden back in 1990 was way different than what, say, Death was doing in Florida that same year (Spiritual Healing). Yet again, both albums are 10/10 if you ask me. Totally different in sound, scope and delivery, but equally important to me as a metal musician growing up. And both these albums tend to grow on me as I get older, which is a testament to the quality of the craftsmanship.

Lasse Pyykkö (HOODED MENACE): Well, there are only few death metal albums that I have enjoyed even more like Leprosy by Death, Consuming Impulse from Pestilence or Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness and maybe some others, but, of course, Left Hand Path and Clandestine belong in that class of the truly classic death metal albums. It's pretty amazing to realize the perpetual impact these two albums have had. I mean, they floored everyone in the scene when they came out, especially the debut album, but did I believe I'd discuss them in 2022? Probably none of us did.

Toni (WORTHLESS): In my opinion both Entombed records are masterpieces and are on my personal top 10 albums list.

And yes, I have started to appreciate them more and more as time has passed. Many still copy their sound, but the original is always original. I can't even imagine how many bands these albums have affected. With their attitude, they have proved death metal can be played absolutely passionately regardless of whether it is popular or not.

Jonathan Verstrepen (CARNATION): For me, the album Clandestine was and still is my favorite Entombed record. I think they really nailed the sound on that album, even more than on Left Hand Path but that's a personal choice, I guess.

Even after many listens I still get goosebumps putting that record on. They really had that rock 'n' roll attitude, which made it even more special. I really like American death metal as well but for me the Swedish stuff still wins, just because of the attitude!

David Nilsson (FERAL): They sure would be among the top of the list, along with other classics of the genre, like the early Grave and Dismember albums, as well as a bunch of others as well. Clandestine has grown on me over the years for sure, I feel like that is an album that you need to give more time to let sink in. I'm glad to see that both albums are still getting the attention they deserve.

Per-Olov Wester (DAEMONICUS): When these albums were released in '90 and '91, I was unaware of their existence. I was 9 in '91 and had just realized there was a thing called metal - thanks to Guns N' Roses and Metallica!

It wasn't until way down the line when I got a hold of these gems. It makes no difference really. I found them when I was capable of taking them in and appreciating them, which I probably wasn't able to earlier. I will rank at least Clandestine as, if not the best album of all time, at least amongst the absolute top! Closely followed by Left Hand Path.

There are young bands coming up every day whose aim is the "Sunlight/Entombed sound." I doubt those albums can ever go out of style or become a thing of the past. Often replicated, never duplicated!

I will leave you with this! There is no other God. Satan killed him! SATAN!

Nattskog (GARDEN OF EYES): While I admit Clandestine isn't quite as much of a huge album for me personally, though I appreciate it and it is still a killer album, I think Left Hand Path is a defining heavy metal album, even more so for death metal. Beyond the borders of Sweden, LHP changed things, alongside Like an Everflowing Stream, Into the Grave, Where No Life Dwells, just to name a few fellow Swedes. I think it also holds up next to pioneering US bands like Morbid Angel, Possessed and Obituary, too. I am a young guy (born in '98), so I cannot speak in the perspective of someone who was there but listening to those albums (and previous demos) and reading the fanzines/books written about those times, I can truly appreciate the urgent and violent spread of this music we love. Nothing could be more inspirational, that primal energy must never be lost from extreme metal!

Jonas Lindblood (PUTERAEON): I haven't changed what I think of these two albums. I have always thought they were top-notch first-class pure fucking Swedish death metal... completely flawless! I put the first Entombed albums up there at the top of death metal together with the early Morbid Angel, early Deicide and early Cannibal Corpse albums. Among the best albums the genre has produced.

Jonny Pettersson (HUMAN HARVEST): Both albums have always been up there among the top releases of all time. I don't think the appreciation has grown because I've become older, but with that said, they have always ranked very high for me. I think unlike other genres like black metal, the attitude doesn't play as much of a role. And it's that mentality that allows bands like Entombed to bridge genres.

Christofer Barkensjö (LIK): I think I have appreciated them always! Of course, they are even more precious now since I tend to get nostalgic when it comes to music and albums that have stuck with you for this long. I still get those rare goosebumps listening to these masterpieces.

Necros (UNDEAD PROPHECIES): In my opinion, Left Hand Path can be considered one of the five best death metal albums of all time. Like I told you before, the quality of their songwriting on that record is timeless, it simply can't get old.

On a larger scale, I have a huge respect for the band's whole career. They've always been trying out new stuff and testing the boundaries of their own style. It wasn't always a success for them, but you can't deny that they were always trying, regardless of what the majority of their fans wanted to get from them. I believe that type of out-of-the-box thinking helped them to bring us some of the best death metal songs of all time.

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