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I got this CD, listened to it a few times and thought: “Damn, this is overrated”. But I decided to search for more reviews on it, and they all kept on saying: “Clandestine is a masterpiece of european death metal”. So I decided to listen to it with more care. It should be a revealing listening experience, so I got my headphones, waited everyone to go out (so the people woudn’t take my attention away). After all, I pressed “play”.
The listening revealed me an aspect that was unnoticed in the first listens: The scary, terror-movie-like atmosphere. The guitarists and the vocalists are responsible for this. They bust out some heavy death riffs (and because of their characteristic guitar tone, there’s a built-in sense of evilness on them. You don’t believe? Go listen to Morbid Angel’s “Lord of All Fevers and Plages”), for example, the first one in “Chaos Breed”. There are also plenty of haunting guitar lines and solos (0:48 at “Sinners Bleed” and the last part of “Evilyn” respectively). Nicke Andersson can be credited by his evil lyrics and growly vocal delivery. His vocals sound like a much more extreme version of Max Cavalera. He abuses the traditional “UUUUURRRGGHHH!” of death metal, and sometimes he seems to be giving orders (“Stranger Aeons”) and even dialoging with the backing vocalist (“Crawl”). The backing vocalist also provides some ultra tortured screams (2:50 to 3:30 at “Sinners Bleed” and the middle part at Evilyn). To complement, there is some keyboard usage (don’t worry, the keyboard lines won’t last more than 2 or 3 seconds).
The music is pretty good. The guitars have that trademark buzzssaw sound (courtesy of Sunlight Studios), and there are some great riffs, of the death metal and thrash variations. This album seems to be in the death/thrash border. I might even say it’s a bit more thrash than DM (45% DM and 55% thrash. Harsher thrash, but still thrash). Most riffs are great, but there are some noteworthy: The first one at “Evilyn”, the majority at “Sinners Bleed”, the DM riff at the start of “Crawl”, 2:08 at “Blessed Be” (very good) and my favorite riff on the CD, “Severe Burns” at 1:29. Morbid Saint has a similar riff but I forgot in which song. Don’t ask me if it’s a ripoff!
The lead guitar has some good solos, nothing special, though the one at “Chaos Breed” is pretty good. The slower solos have some melody.
The drumming isn’t Flo Mounier or Proscriptor-style but it does work ok. It’s just snare-bass plus some long fills. These are nailed at the right moments, avoiding overloading (like Morbid Angel’s “Covenant”). I wish I could listen to more double-bass here. Blasting is absent, but I’m sure it wouldn’t go well here (meh, they don’t go well anywhere). Once in a blue moon the drummer screws up, but hey, let’s not get nitpicky. As for the bass, I think it could be used as another ambience tool, just like Cryptopsy’s “Phobophile”, after the piano intro or some songs on Marduk’s “Dark Endless”. Obviously, it’s buried under the buzzsaw guitars.
The songs are great. I’d choose as highlights “Living Dead”, which is my favorite song here because of its mindless agression, “Sinners Bleed” and “Evilyn”. But every other song has its great moments, even the Evilyn/Sinners Bleed cross called “Stranger Aeons”. The weakest song here is the last one, due the lack of good riffs (though the intro is decent).
After listening to it, I understood why this is so praised. Entombed laid the ground for many bands from Sweden, including DM-era Marduk and what those Gothenburg bands have that can be called “heavy”. It really deserves all the praise and must be owned.