Back in the mid-90’s when metal was struggling to retain its foothold in an alternative rock obsessed musical landscape, there was a little period where it was unclear just who were the main metal band we could count on were. Metallica were cutting their hair and making Load, Slayer had just released an album of punk covers, Phil Anselmo’s overdose had left Pantera licking their wounds in private, Max Cavalera had left Sepultura in acrimony and disarray, Machine Head were dragging their feet with the follow up to Burn My Eyes, Anthrax and Megadeth had gone AWOL.
With all this going on, there was a moment, just a brief, beautifully naïve moment, where it looked like Swedish death and rollers Entombed, a red hot underground proposition after the success of legitimate classic records like Left Hand Path and Wolverine Blues, were going to step up and be the band to spearhead heavy metal.
It didn’t happen of course.The mainstream will occasionally tolerate metal, but there was no way they were going to embrace a band fronted by a growling, gurning, hard drinking, old school metalhead like LG Petrov. Which, of course, is precisely why those of us in the metal scene loved the man so much, and why so many mourn his passing today, as his banmates in his current band Entombed AD reveled that he had passed away after being diagnosed with bile duct cancer.
The original Entombed may never have been the biggest name in heavy music, but, for those of us that clung tightly to anything that dared to fly in the face of alternative rock or nu-metal by embracing the aesthetic of classic heavy metal in the 90’s, they were as important and beloved as any band you care to mention.
As the early death metal of Left Hand Path evolved into the death and roll of Wolverine Blues, all the way into the way to the angular noise rock of the much maligned, but supremely underrated, Same Difference, Entombed offered an exhilarating, rollicking antidote to mainstream guitar music.
What set them apart was their chainsaw riffs, their pummeling, ear bleeding walls of noise and, of course, Petrov’s utterly unmistakable, glass gargling, slurring belch. Where many metal singers tried their hand at ‘clean’ vocals, or even rapping, Petrov found hooks in extreme metal from the most unlikely of places, managing to make Entombed catchy, despite never dropping below a throat shredding, intense style.
LG might have sounded different to the singers of the time, but part of his appeal was how he looked like one of us. Entombed shows wouldn’t be Entombed shows without seeing a scruffy-looking Petrov, soaked heat to foot in sweat, beer and whiskey, sodden lank hair stuck to his face as he whipped his head back and forth in between grunts. His offstage demeanour, whether in interviews or just propped up against the bar after their set was the same. He wasn’t interested in being a rock star or appealing to MTV, he wanted to bang his head, get pissed and listen to Kiss and Black Sabbath. What metal fan couldn’t identify with that?
Even though Entombed became less active in the latter part of the 00’s, and the fracturing of the band that happened in the 20110’s could have overshadowed their legacy, such was the pull of their superb melding of grooving rock and rock and savage death metal, that an entire sub-genre of bands have spent the last decade discovering and trying to re-create their sound. From Trap Them to All Pigs Must Die, Magrudergrind to Black Breath, all of them surely should be raising a glass to LG Petrov this evening.
As for the rest of the metal community: we mourn a genuine one of our own; an unassuming, uncomplicated, simple man who made heavy metal so much better just through his undying love of it.