Monday, February 1, 2010

Entombed - Same Difference (1998)

The cover for the previous Entombed might have been a little unusual, but at the least it was visually appealing enough to intrigue you as to the album's contents. The cover for Same Difference is the same lackadaisical photography I might expect from some 90s alt rock or alt metal band like Clutch or Paw, but from fucking Entombed? But this is really only the first of many complaints for what is easily the most loathsome direction the band would take in their career, the sodden pits of quality which don't even function properly in their intended context: a full on heavy blues rock & roll album with a dash of punk and only the faintest trace of the mighty Swedes that once were.

Perhaps Clutch of Paw are good references, because this is the same type of blues/alt metal that those bands spun off into (though Clutch did a damn fine job of it, and the existence of an album like Elephant Riders only renders this one that much more irrelevant). I'm also reminded of how Corrosion of Conformity went from their excellent spastic crossover roots to a tamer thrash metal, and then to their gelded, polished stoner rock. While I'm no natural enemy towards change, I would ask you, should this album ever darken your day by crossing your path, to do a point by point comparison with Left Hand Path. Hear what Entombed had been, and then check out what Entombed had become. It is truly fucking sad. All that being said, had Same Difference possessed a catchy song or three, hell, even a catchy pop song, there might be something to forgive. But this the worst kind of experiment...the antithesis of 'progression', because it makes even the bland To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth seem mildly exciting by comparison.

"Addiction King" opens with a guitar melody that feeds off the pummeling bass below, and then a rolling chug rhythm and driving punk sequence which sadly represents the best the album will have to offer. Yes, Same Difference blows its wad within the first 3 minutes, with a track on the level of the previous album, decent but not enough so that it beckons a replay. Still, it almost gives an impression that this album might be an improvement over the prior, until "The Supreme Good" rolls across like some lost jam session between Soundgarden and the Snapcase vocalist, straight through your hearing pipes into the bargain bin. "Clauses" is a crashing heavy metal blues, and though the chorus attempts to build power, it simply lapses back into the bluesy rhythm with ringing melody which you've already grown tired of. "Kick in the Head" is more bouncy, forgettable alt rock, and for the title track they break out another of their Zeppelin/Hendrix inspired groove rhythms with a very "Albatross" verse riff and vocals (again, I refer you to Corrosion of Conformity who performed a similar castration to their career).

Surely, there is a diamond in the rough somewhere within the bowels of this album! It's not "Close But Nowhere Near", another Zeppelin groove with a semi-memorable chorus. "What You Need" slams pretty hard, like a chugging post hardcore that breaks into a filthy punk rock bridge rhythm, and it might just rival "Addiction King" for the best song on the album, due to big bass chord anchors. "High Waters" is reasonably atmospheric, with the lurching swamp bass, but offers no punchline, and "20/20" also wants hard to be a winner, but aside from the catchy notes played alongside the chorus, and the big bass strikes during the breakdown, it's just not that good.

By this point, at least the band are writing songs that don't put you immediately to sleep; they simply do not capitalize on their potential strengths. "The Day, The Earth" is fairly fluent as it stalks through the verse, with a big bass line grooving through, but all you've got to look forward to is a repetition of this same rhythm, with a chug thrown in for pacing. "Smart Aleck" and "Jack Worm" are dirty and aggressive, and both might have fit in with To Ride, To Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth, with the latter the more promising of the two, and the noisy, thumping rocker "Wolf Tickets" elongates its muddy blues into a mannerism that might have Monster Magnet fans' hands in their pants, but again, 30-60 seconds into the track, and you've heard al you need, with no important escalation or surprise awaiting you.

Same Difference reeks, but if I have to give it some credit, it at least tries to save face later on. The entire latter half of the album seems more strongly crafted than the first, but not strong enough to pitch the remaining salt water from the hull, to save the sailors from drowning. There is enough dark and brooding to subtly identify it with the Entombed of the past two albums, but it feels like the sort of 'filler' album which might have been better faced with a rejection notice. Still, the Swedes had enough punch and pull to do whatever amused them by this point, and never a band to recoil at change, this cartload of poo is now forever besmeared across their discography. Like a bad hangover, it lingers on, crushing at your patience. My advice would be to listen to the tracks in reverse, at least that way you'll only be bored to tears by the time you shut it off, and not livid with anger and confusion.

Highlights: knowing where to turn when you next run dry of firewood.

Verdict: Fail [3.75/10]
(nature found a way today)

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