There's no secret to be kept in the dark about this album. To put it simply: this is ENTOMBED's best album. Forget what you've heard about their classic "Left Hand Path" as far as how that kick-started the entire Swedish Death Metal scene. Even though it is a classic in its own right, "Left Hand Path" doesn't have jack-shit on "Clandestine."
"Clandestine" came out during at what I would refer to as the high point of Death Metal; during it's time in the sunlight (did you catch than pun? Com'n, you didn't think of it!). What else was being released in 1991? A shitload that's for sure. BOLT THROWER's "Warmaster,” NAPALM DEATH's "Mass Appeal Madness," GRAVE's "Into the Grave," DISMEMBER's "Like an Everflowing Stream,” (SPOILER ALAERT!) AUTOPSY's “Mental Funeral,” MORBID ANGEL's "Blessed are the Sick,” etc., etc., etc. Yeah just about every band that year was putting something out that would be considered a classic. It was possibly the apex of Death Metal's career to be exact. I mean, the years that followed came the downfall and decline in Death Metal classics for the most part, but even with that said, some of the main bands still had some aces up their sleeves. ENTOMBED still had one more game-changer, "Wolverine Blues," and that started an entire new direction in their career. But that's another story. Right now let’s focus more on the H.P Lovecraft-tinged classic that is "Clandestine."
The main thing that separates "Left Hand Path" and "Clandestine" is the production. That and maybe one or two more things. For one, you know that guitar tone that ENTOMBED is known for? That Boss "Heavy Metal" HM-2 guitar pedal plugged into a Marshall Amp? It's gotten fucking deadlier-sounding. Will go more into that more later. Another big change is the vocals. Guess what? It's not LG Petrov. It's drummer Nicke Andersson. Yeah, who the fuck would have known little Nicky had a monstrous set of chords in his pipes? I'll put it this way: it adds to the sheer brutality of the album. And even though I love LG's raspier "I-just-smoked-an-entire-carton-of-Marlboros" vocals, Nicke has way bassier-toned vocals. On top of providing vocal duties for the M.I.A. LG, he's still not only the drummer but his skills just bumped up a notch on "Clandestine.” OOH, OOH, OOH! THEY FINALLY GOT A BASSIST! Lars Rosenburg makes his debut and damn he definitely provides the extra ‘umph’ in the music. Aside from that, classic Sunlight Studios sound. Which let me add for a bit of a trivia note that ENTOMBED did NOT invent; they helped make it famous, but they did not invent, nor were they the first extreme Metal band to record there. You can thank TIAMAT's first LP "Sumerian Cry" for that, which was actually recorded a mere two-to-three months before "Left Hand Path" on that one.
Right off the bat, "Clandestine" starts off with "Living Dead,” which gives the title track to "Left Hand Path" a run for its money. Yes, this song is more fucking vicious-sounding than "Left Hand Path". Call that blasphemy, call that going against the mainstream opinion and mindset, but this is Metal. If you cannot handle that, go listen to FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH for all I care. Already we have those nasty, dirty-as-fuck REPULSION/MASTER/DISCHARGE-influenced guitar riffs from none other than Alex Hellid and Ulf "Uffe" Cederlund. Which by the way have never sounded better. Of course with bassist Lars backing them up, they at times damn near get to BOLT THROWER-type heaviness. Speaking of which...."Sinners Bleed" opens up with a motherfucker of a double-bass roll and tank-heavy guitars that really sounds like the band were possibly listening to "Realm of Chaos." "Sinners Bleed" is more of a start-stop riff-fest with some creepy Horror movie-influenced keyboards barely heard in the background but you'll hear it. If anything, it mimics a guitar squeal, if anything. "Evilyn"....dunna-dunna-da-dunna-dunna-da-dunna-dunna-da-dunna-dunna-da...goddamn nothing but MORE riffs. "Clandestine" is chock full of them. "Blessed Be" is a straight-forward thrasher. "Stranger Aeons", oh man, here with go with this monster of a song. That opening riff. You know what's coming. Yep, more riffs. Only this time we are getting a possible spoiler view of their next album because this song has more of a Death ‘n' Roll feel to it. Not as much as "Wolverine Blues,” but subtle enough to hear the roll. "Chaos Breed" sounds like it was a left-over from "Left Hand Path" but nothing short of still thrashing. "Crawl" is the best ode to Satan a Death Metal band ever made. The last two songs don't do it too much for me in terms of being memorable, but nonetheless, they are on this album so they are automatically killer and no filler.
So yeah, that is the second full length ENTOMBED album in a nutshell. It's not too difficult to understand that it is a must-own album, as is their first and third albums, but anybody with a brain would know that. Not to belittle the reviewer or the person that has yet to actually listen to ENTOMBED, and if you are that said person, then I would highly suggest that you start with "Clandestine," just due to the fact that it is the mid-point between their 100% pure Swedish Death Metal sound of "Left Hand Path" and the more commercial, critically acclaimed Death 'n’ Roll album "Wolverine Blues.” It's fast, heavy, speed-like, chunky, bassy, satanic, oozing with creepy ancient one tentacles wrapped around the listener's ears through the earphones or out of its stereo speakers pulling them into a world where they are forever the living dead a mass a fresh stockpile of nuclear weapons. It's that damn killer.
(Online August 1, 2012)