"This is an album about the love of Lucifer,” proclaims Entombed guitarist Alex Hellid in regard to the band’s ninth studio effort Serpent Saints (Candlelight USA). It’s not exactly a revelation. The closing track "Love Song For Lucifer” points that out and in the grand scheme, such subject matter is not exactly a startling deviation for one of death metal’s most renowned acts.

Still, while Entombed are valued by headbangers around the world for pummelling aggression and perversely intelligent lyrics on some of the genre’s more respectable efforts such as 1990’s Left Hand Path and 1994’s Wolverine Blues, they’ve been veering further and further off this track over the past few years. Albums have grown increasingly more rock-based and, to be blunt, less acclaimed.

However, with its starkness, raw power, bellowing vocals and sheer force, Serpent Saints feels closer to the aforementioned early efforts than anything Entombed have released over the past decade. It is fresh, invigorating and fucking heavy. Yet, while Hellid alludes to the familiar ground that Serpent Saints traverses, he’s hesitant to deem these ten thick, brutal tracks a return to form.

"This isn’t so much a ‘back to our roots’ album as it is just a great metal record,” he says. "The past few albums felt like a collection of songs — singles — but this has a flow. We focused on making this beast flow from start to finish by deciding that in our hearts, we wanted not a concept album, but something that was held together by a unified theme. It’s easier to focus on the right things when you know what you want to do with an album. You can write and be in the proper mind frame to achieve what you want instead of songs being all over the place and struggling to fit them together in production.”

Recognising how releases like 1999’s Same Difference and 2003’s were lacking in drive and focus, the band — Hellid, vocalist L.G. Petrov, bassist Nico Elgstrand and drummer Olle Dahlstedt — re-evaluated and sought out new inspiration. Hellid recounts how the rediscovery of Metallica’s 1986 masterpiece Master Of Puppets aided them in formulating a cohesive outline for Serpent Saints.

"We were listening to Master Of Puppets and realised that when you hear an album such as that, there’s no way you can’t nod your head to it,” he asserts. "We wanted to do that but also have good lyrics to go with it. Metallica’s lyrics are as great as the music but sometimes they tend to go one way or the other: either you like the music and forget about the words or you’re listening to what they say and don’t know the riffs. But with an album like that, you’re enthralled with every aspect of it. That’s what we wanted to achieve with Serpent Saints

Mission accomplished thanks to grinding tracks dripping with reinvigoration. Foregoing the cumbersome weight of political themes that have crept into previous works — not to mention Master Of Puppets — but still intent on provoking fans to think, the ultimate subject of Serpent Saints had to be something the band understood quite well. Enter old friend Beelzebub.

Still, there was one issue to overcome: how to record without losing the fresh, infectious vibe or sacrificing sound quality. Opting for the realism of a demo-approach, each track of Serpent Saints was recorded moments after being written. Hellid notes that the band’s jump-the-gun recording approach was instrumental in achieving the disc’s adrenaline-pumping excitement.

"We always change what we do when we’re recording to keep things interesting. This time we would record a song after only trying it a time or two,” he declares. "It lends rawness to the record that we didn’t have for a long time. There’s an energy you catch in demos that never carries over to the better recording. You’ve played it too many times and while it sounds great, there’s just something missing because you sacrifice it for quality. We wanted to capture that again.”

At the same time, Serpent Saints is loud and clear while still abrasive and tough, far from lacking in regards to sound quality. Assisted by producer Neil Kernon (Judas Priest, Flotsam and Jetsam), Hellid feels the band may have realised their own Master-piece by spending "lots of time mixing and mastering…but being quick at committing things to tape.” "A lot of attention was paid to both production and writing. I know that doesn’t sound extraordinary but bands generally tend to pay more attention to one over the other,” he concludes. "It’s like with [Master of] Puppets again: whether you hear that record on a car stereo or a club P.A. system, it’s always amazing. Everything works so well together. Some records sound great at home but shitty on a loud P.A. By taking the proper steps, we were certain that we’d written great songs and then recorded them so that no matter where you hear it, your head will be nodding along too.”