For years I’ve listened to Death Metal and was invariably disappointed. No matter which band, the music always sounded dry and uninspired. The main problem was that most of the albums I’ve picked up were from late 90s or early 2000s when Death Metal has, for all intents and purposes, fizzled out as a genre. So I had often turned to the derivative genres such as Metalcore and Deathcore instead, until those too have decayed beyond recognition in the late 2000s.
After doing a bit of research, I’ve discovered that Death Metal was not always so hopeless. In particular, the albums recorded at the Sunlight Studios in Stockholm during the late 80s and early 90s received a lot of praise. Left Hand Path is likely the most well known of the bunch. It features that signature buzzsaw guitar tone that the early Swedish Death Metal bands became so famous for. The sound and production on Left Hand Path are just perfect. The guitars, the drums, the bass and the vocals all sound great and are well mixed together.
The album opens with Left Hand Path that starts off with a scream (of what sounds like a falling man), followed by low-tuned guitars and a quick solo. This sequence in itself was enough to convince me that this album would be worth my time.
I am my own God
Master slave and I will be beyond the grave
No one will take my soul away
I carry my own will and make my day
The track proceeds at a fast pace for three and a half minutes or so until it slows down to what appears to be the end, but out of nowhere the Phantasm theme comes out, which the band worked really well into their song. I’m not sure how the band came up with this idea, but it sure made for a unique song.
Drowned is another fast track that has some really good riffs and the solos towards the end makes the track quite memorable. Revel in Flesh is played at a slower pace and it doesn’t seem to possess the intensity of the typical Death Metal song. The band almost sounds sloppy when playing at this speed, seemingly lacking the precision of execution, but that’s a false impression. You really have to hear it to understand it. The song wraps up with another great solo – that’s one thing that modern Death Metal bands rarely get right.
When Life Has Ceased is also a mid-paced track, it doesn’t feature any great riffs, but what it does is it allows the buzzsaw guitars to shine. The listener can fully immerse in that low, thick, rippling guitar sound. At this point it wasn’t really a surprise that there was yet another great solo waiting at the end.
Supposed to Rot is a short and very fast track that opens with an amazing riff – maybe the best on the entire album. But Life Goes On is another track where the band fully capitalizes on the guitar sound they’ve achieved by incorporating open string riffs and allowing the guitars to ‘ring through’.
Dead – Deceased, but life goes on
I will be the one who won
Continue to seek and you will see
That life is your worst enemy
Bitter Loss is not a bad track, but it’s not memorable save for the eerie solo at the end. Morbid Devourment falls into the ‘neither here not there’ category as well – it has some decent moments, but clocking in at 5:25 it’s probably 2 or 3 minutes too long. It seems the band started to run out of creativity towards the end of their debut album. Abnormally Deceased doesn’t have much to offer either.
The album finishes with The Truth Beyond, where the band seems to have mustered up whatever was left of their song writing capacity and finished the album strongly. At least this will give the listener an incentive to finish the record without stopping a few songs short.
People put to death in the name of God
And blood run red in an eternal flood
The word has been spread – Through out the centuries
Millions of corpses lying in the cemeteries
This albums appears to be one of two halves – the band started out very strongly, but lost their creative inspiration towards the end. That seems to be how the band’s entire career has unfolded as well: after putting out a strong debut, they never really got it right thereafter.
I couldn’t say this album is perfect, because there definitely seems to be some filler on here. It actually took me a really long time to write this review because I kept re-playing the album, trying to figure out each track’s identity, but some of them just don’t have one. Nevertheless, Left Hand Path was an important album for me because it made me seek out older records from the likes of Death, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Dismember, Obituary and appreciate Death Metal for what it was, not for what it is now.