Because bands can’t think of a better way to deal with a naming conflict than just adding “A.D.” or “B.C.” to the end, we now have Entombed A.D., which is essentially just the most recent incarnation of Entombed minus longtime guitarist Alex Hellid. Regardless of the lineup, Entombed hasn’t exactly been vital and alive in the years leading up to this split/conflict, and anyone that has been even mildly observational could tell that this isn’t exactly a band that has mattered in more than two decades.
That is not to imply that Entombed has been without merit over that period. To the contrary, they have put out a good amount of quality material, if not a lot of truly complete albums. Getting to 2014, debut album (HA!) Back to the Front could easily have been released without the name adjustment, as this basically sounds like an amalgamation of the entire death‘n’roll period of Entombed. It often thumps like Uprising, drives hard like Morning Star, and provides quite a bit of the simpler doom/death’n’roll akin to Inferno tracks like “Retaliation.” The issue is that it isn’t as dripping with filth as the first album in that list, as well-written as the second, or as fresh and fun (goofy) as the third.
It simply feels like New Entombed Album 2014, which admittedly will be enough to entertain certain fans, and it definitely comes up far better than the inconsistent mixed bag that was 2007’s Serpent Saints. (Has it really been seven years since this band released any new material?!) Opener “Kill to Live” should tell listeners all they need to know about this album—mostly that there is not any single moment that even remotely resembles a surprise. And for a while, that’s just fine, as a few legitimately great tunes help to glue together the lesser, merely “there” tracks. Chief among these are “Second To None” and “Eternal Woe,” the former fueled by a heaping of L-G Petrov intimidation and some great gang shouts, while the latter slows to a molasses bang, allowing a simple, well-placed lead to provide the hook.
At over 50 minutes, Back to the Front undoubtedly goes on too long, an issue of which the band was likely aware, as the latter minutes are given a shot with the blasty-thrashy “The Underminer.” But rather than fix the issue, it merely places one of the better songs later than a lot of listeners will want to wait around.
So what’s in a name? Here, not a whole lot. A better moniker for this “new” band probably would have been “Entombed M.O.T.S.,” because Back to the Front is nothing if not more of the same that L-G and company have been peddling for the past couple decades. All in all, it’s a decently fun, insanely safe album that more or less accomplishes what it set out to do: keep the Entombed brand going to justify touring. Still, it could certainly be improved upon by trimming about 15 minutes of the super samey, middling material. It could also be improved upon by sitting on the shelf while you spin Morning Star.