It took the combined might of Columbia Records, Earache Records, Marvel Comics, MTV and Sweden to bring death metal to a 13 year old boy attending Catholic school in Central Iowa.
At that age, staying up late on Saturday nights to watch Headbanger’s Ball had become a weekly ritual. It wasn’t like I had a life or anything in that weird, awkward period just before high school. This was a golden age for MTV, as they were playing stuff like Metallica, Megadeth and Danzig during the day, but I craved more. Oftentimes I would fall asleep during the Ball, but it seemed like the later into the night the show went, the heavier and stranger the bands got, so I always tried my hardest to stay up and take it all in.
That’s when I witnessed Entombed’s video for the title track off of Wolverine Blues. To be honest, at that age I was probably more excited about the X-Men character Wolverine appearing in the video than I was about the music. In addition to be being a budding metalhead, I was a full-blown nerd of the comic book collecting, Dungeons & Dragons playing variety. Yes, the first time I heard death metal I was on the fence about it. I think it was probably the vocals that threw me off. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I was accustomed to actual singing, or at least vocalists who tried to sing… the whole growling thing didn’t really set well with me at the time.
Fast forward a few years and I found a copy of Wolverine Blues at a used CD store. Seeing Wolverine on the cover and remembering the video, I bought the damn thing even though I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it or not. By then I owned some albums by “gateway” bands like Sepultura, Slayer and Pantera so it seemed that the time was right.
Sure enough, I ended up loving Wolverine Blues and it remains to this day one of my favorite metal albums. It might have started “death ‘n’ roll” for better or worse, but for me it opened up another door to the world of extreme music far beyond what I was comfortable or familiar with at the time. In retrospect, it sounds more like ultra gnarly punk rock than pure death metal, but at the time it seemed like the meanest, heaviest motherfucker of an album on the planet.
Of course, from what I gather the members of Entombed were none too pleased about being forced to partner with Marvel Comics, and the Columbia/Earache deal wasn’t the platinum-selling success that the two labels had hoped for. But nonetheless, for a brief moment the planets aligned and my life’s path was irrevocably changed forever.
So thanks Entombed… I definitely owe you, big time.