Retro-Review: ‘Wolverine Blues’ by Entombed

Wolverine Blues.

What can you say? This album by Entombed created the “death ‘n’ roll” genre. Not a lot of bands can claim they created a genre aside from Black Sabbath, Venom or Death among an elite few.

I remember the first reviews of this album, among them being the one featured in Metal Maniacs, proclaiming it to be the next Reign in Blood. Now, that’s debatable, but Wolverine Blues is something special and 25 years later, it’s still a point of contention among death metalheads.

Wolverine Blues was a dramatic change in sound for the Swedish band that had been one of the formentors of the Swedish Death Metal sound. Some loved it. Some hated it.

Entombed were already held in high esteem for their albums Left Hand Path and Clandestine. They were on top of the death metal world already, known for their buzzing guitars and ferocious, yet complicated, songs. They could’ve done the same thing over and over again, which man metal fans seem to prefer, instead of take a risk with their sound.

That risk paid off and not only did Entombed find success, despite a roasting by Beavis and Butthead, but would develop the death ‘n’ roll sound into the next decade.

No matter what one’s preference is, there is no taking away from Entombed’s mark on metal, whether it be their contributions to Swedish Death Metal or death ‘n’ roll.

Wolverine Blues marks the return of Lars-Göran Petrov, who fronted the band on Left Hand Path but was absent on Clandestine. What Petrov lacks in diversity of delivery, he makes up with ferociousness.

Bringing thing up on the guitar front are Alex Hellid and Uffe Cederlund. Their low-tuned and distorted rhythms and small, but effective, melodies helps give Wolverine Blues a raw and bloody sound that matches the name. Going against the trend at the time, they deliver many guitar solos throughout the album.

Bassist Lars Rosenberg compliments Hellid and Cederlund by adding a pummeling depth to their sound. Rosenberg adds a very organic feel to the album, which suits the entire mood of the album.

Speaking of organic, Nicke Andersson (who was the uncredited lead vocalist on Clandestine) delivers thuds that are akin to what the victim of a sledgehammer attack would hear in their heads. His drumming keeps the band pretty grounded, but also adds a special element of its own with its very dirty sound.

Yeah, it’s a dramatic change from their first two albums, but the lineup on this album pulled it off in such a way that it didn’t sound “new” but that they had been “death ‘n’ roll” for a long, long time.

The album

Wolverine Blues is a fairly mid-paced album compared to the prior two releases. That doesn’t make it any less heavy, though. Where they dial back on speek and like I said before, Entombed make it up with rawness and ferociousness.

Case and point, the opening song “Eyemaster.” It’s not only the opener, but also one of the best tracks on the album.

This song opens with a sample of Pinhead from the Hellraiser movie series saying “I am the way.” From there, the song burst into a rabid and blistering attack that doesn’t let up. The bass is pummeling and drives the song into the the shredding attack of the Hellid and Cederlund’s guitars. They still have a bit of that buzzing that marked Swedish Death Metal, but it isn’t as prominent as it used to be.

“Eyemaster,” like many other songs on the album has a solo that is short and sweet.

How short?

Throughout the album, I don’t think there’s many solos that are longer than 10-15 seconds. For a lot of metalheads, that’s too short. For me, I think it works. Despite being short, the solos are effective and pretty memorable compared to more drawn out solos that can wind up being too dramatic for their own good.

Other great tracks following “Eyemaster’s” formula include the very heavy “Demon” and “Heavens Die.”

Variant cover

Of course, as was the trend in the 1990s, there are some songs without a solo, one being the title track “Wolverine Blues.” It’s also rather surprising that it’s also the shortest track, which went against the trend at the time. Until “Wolverine Blues” most listeners expected the title track to be one of the more epic or complicated songs on an album. Entombed went against that an produced not only a strong track, but also one of the catchiest death metal tracks too.

There are a couple of other tracks that stand a head above the others on this album. That means they’re something special because all the songs on Wolverine Blues are pretty damn good.

Those tracks are “Contempt” and “Hollowman.” Both songs open with haunting guitar melodies and both have some strong and memorable guitar solos. They take the listener to a dark place and put them through the grinder. Those two, above any others, I would say are the two that are definite must-listens.

Other honorable mentions is the rather groovy “Full of Hell” and the spooky “Blood Song.”

As far as criticisms of this album, I don’t really have any. Entombed set out and did what they wanted to accomplish. Some people at the time may have felt they were overpaying for something that was barely longer than most EPs at the time, but I think that the overall quality of the album more than makes up for it. I’d rather buy a shorter album where all the songs are good as opposed to an hour long album with a lot of filler.

The verdict

Wolverine Blues is a great album and one of the most important released in 1993. Sure, there are a lot of fans of Entombed’s first two albums that feel like it was a slap in the face, but I feel like it was something the band wanted to do and enjoyed doing it.

I don’t see how anyone can not like this album. Entombed’s enthusiasm for the material shines through in their performance. That enthusiasm rubs off on the listener who will likely come back for more.

Definitely recommended.


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