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Something has changed - 91%

Colonel Para Bellum, May 10th, 2021

"Secrets of Laceration", the eleventh album by the Finnish Black Metal band Clandestine Blaze, continues the musical tradition of the previous album, "Tranquility of Death" (2018), many sections of which were sustained at a slow tempo, so under certain conditions it even left the impression of a "pensive" recording, with a hefty dose of melancholy. But in his new work, Mikko Aspa, the only member of the band, decided to go to even greater extremes, which is clear from the very first song "The Eyes of the Saint" – here you immediately begin to catch a hint not only of doom metal, but even of sludge metal. So Clandestine Blaze surprises from the start and gives to understand that this is an unusual album.

And although most of the songs here burst into a blast beat from the very beginning, and the good old Clandestine Blaze appears very often on the album, basically during fast-paced passages, – this provocation (why not?) has done its work: "Secrets of Laceration" seems to be a mostly slow album. The label's press release even states that it is "perhaps the slowest and heaviest of Clandestine Blaze albums." Nevertheless, it's better not to talk about the devastating contrast with "Tranquility of Death". And keyboards, by the way, were also used on "Tranquility of Death". Well, we are dealing with progressive advance here.

And as for the "heaviest" – this is the pure truth. "Secrets of Laceration" literally presses with its first riff, a very heavy riff. This will continue until the very end, you can be sure. Certainly this kind of heaviness is not very common in black metal, but rather in death / doom metal, or even in drone metal. And concerning "fuzzy veil of distortion", which drills "mercilessly on top of music" (press release again), this is also true. The guitar turns over, it sounds pretty gritty, although not with a lot of "fizz", but sometimes this crackle really wounds the ear. Other instruments also pick up this "infection", and here we go, sometimes instead of cymbals we hear some kind of dirty rustle. Because of such wonderful sound effects, guitar passages are often difficult to make out – take at least the beginning of "Wastelands of Revelation" or "Disinter the Remains of Prophets".

But for all these terrible characteristics of the production, which are the strong-minded artistic intent, some artistic malicious intent, "Secrets of Laceration" is overflowing with catchy, enchanting and piercing melodies that hypnotize the listener. It is worth noting that the heavily distorted production works fine for such a hypnotic effect, maybe this is because you should listen attentively to the tremolo picking lead line to make it out. An excellent example of this intervention is "Unmourned Crimes", especially its opening part. Well, in such a gritty atmosphere it is not surprising to get a hallucination – sometimes you even think that you hear a muffled solo where there is none. At least on first listening, we ran into this on "The Eyes of the Saint" at 4:28. This is another side effect of the album's production, but fortunately or unfortunately, this does not happen very often.

Moreover, the production is not at all an enemy of the listener, in the sense that as a rule, the structure of the songs can be understood quite easily. The main solo / lead line of the song (almost every one has it) is repeated, – the use of repetition is very common on "Secrets of Laceration", and it is very effective for enhancing the atmosphere. Sometimes it even comes to three repetitions, as in "The Eyes of the Saint" – a dreary and mournful, funeral solo haunts the listener like an idée fixe. In general, a decadent mood dominates in the melodies of the album, most often, this is not anger that is felt in the riffs, but rather despair and sorrow. Even when you hear the signature riff in the spirit of the Darkthrone tradition, this impression does not leave you (check "Wastelands of Revelation").

There are also some classic solos on "Secrets of Laceration": chaotic thrash / black metal solos ("The Human Moth" at 2:54, "Secrets of Laceration" at 4:41), a rock style one, almost cheerful ("Wastelands of Revelation" at 2:38), and there is even a tapping solo, though it is also somewhat unusual with its aura ("Disinter the Remains of Prophets" at 2:31). Perhaps one could even say that the rest of the classical elements also sound unusual on this album. It is hard not to notice it.

Right, the murky, near-lo-fi production is not innovation for Clandestine Blaze. But Aspa's experimentation with riffs and styles is quite another matter. We face this at almost every step. The third song "The Human Moth" starts with a punk-like riff, however, with a shade of sadness again. Actually, until the blast beat section starts, it's a very rock style song with a strange chorus / lick in the vein of The Sisters of Mercy. The next "Disinter the Remains of Prophets" is an insane and nerve-racking composition, especially noteworthy is a riffage starting from 1:09, this powerful cocktail of early Possessed and "halting" Voivod clearly doesn't sound like orthodox black metal. "Stripe in the Sediment" is once again sludge metal, vicious beyond all measure, in which avant-garde riffs vie with the gloomy atonal keyboards, until some otherworldly riff enters at 3:24, after the keyboard bridge, – it is implacable like an embodiment of the death sentence, piercing like a gimlet, but still not suitable for orthodox black metal. In this song the vocals sound the most emotional – despairing and hateful at the same time.

It seems that Aspa mocks the black metal clichés on "Secrets of Laceration" and does everything to make his black metal sound fundamentally different, even a typical thrash metal riff in "Secrets of Laceration" at 0:24 does not sound itself, maybe the keyboard accompaniment helped it in this. This album is unlikely to please orthodox black metallers, at least at the first try. Well, try listening to "Secrets of Laceration" again. We don't think the album's message is difficult, but you will have to hunt for it.

The Metal Observer