Fire Burns In Our Hearts is the first full-length album from Finland's Clandestine
Blaze, released by Blackmetal.com in 1999. Truthfully, this is not a very good representation of the band, as it sounds very
much like an extended demo. The quality is very much below that which one would expect from Mikko Aspa. It is difficult to
discern whether or not he was aiming for a necro sound, or if he simply lacked the resources to make something that sounded
better than this. Either way, this is not a good first impression.
I purchased this album after already picking up Night of the Unholy Flames
and Fist of the Northern Destroyer. I had a fairly high opinion of the band, as far as Third Wave Black Metal is
concerned. This release nearly killed that, though I obviously took note of the fact that this preceded the others. I tried
to get into it, but it simply wasn't worth my time. There was no point in listening to some third-rate Darkthrone rip-off
when I could just listen to the real thing.
Musically, there is nothing original going on here. This is highly derivative of the
early Norwegian Black Metal albums, though entirely lacking in quality. There are a couple of interesting tremolo riffs, on
"Anti-Christian Warfare" and "Native Resistance", with the latter being the best song on here. However, the song structures
are weak and each goes on far too long. This would all be fine, for a demo, but this is supposed to be a debut album.
One of the biggest problems with this recording would have to be the vocals. Mikko
sounds terrible, and one has to wonder if he's attempted to use some effect to alter the sound. If so, all it did was make
the issue worse. It sounds less like a Black Metal vocalist and more like a fork that got sucked into the garbage disposal.
He's not really known as one of the best vocalists around, anyway, but the performance here is quite dismal. Then again, it
matches the overall output.
I cannot recommend Fire Burns In Our Hearts to anyone, with the exception
of fans of Clandestine Blaze that simply wish to own all of the albums. However, I cannot stress this enough, do your best
to pick it up at a discount and absolutely do not waste some ungodly amount of cash in an idiotic attempt to track down an
original copy. It really isn't worth it. Mikko did a fine job of mixing his influences with a style of his own, later on,
but it hadn't happened yet, as of this album. Stick to the later releases.
(20 Sept. 2009)
Night of the Unholy Flames (2000)
Night of the Unholy Flames is the
sophomore effort from Finland's Clandestine Blaze, the solo project of Mikko Aspa. This album was the first full-length to
be released on his own label, Northern Heritage Records, right before Deathspell Omega's Infernal
Battles. In many ways, this should be considered the true debut from Clandestine Blaze, as Fire Burns In Our Hearts was more of a demo than a real album. This release takes the basic concept of what
Mikko was attempting on that release and finally sees it through.
An ominous intro precedes the first song, setting
the tone for what is to come. "Chambers" erupts from the calm, racing forward at a fast pace and slaughtering every living
thing that it comes upon. The guitar tone is cold and somewhat sharp, but not hard on the ears. This hearkens back to Darkthrone's
Transilvanian Hunger, with the minimalist songwriting and execution. The song features
mournful tremolo riffs with blasting drums underneath, keeping a decent pace but never going too far. There are moments where
the guitar is left to stand on its own, which really helps to add a sense of gloom and melancholy to the atmosphere. While
owing quite a bit to his Norwegian idols, Mikko uses the same formula but his melodies have a distinct sound and vibe of their
own. What he has done is to build upon what came before, rather than simply imitating it. The lyrics are a bit controversial,
discussing the extermination of Jews and Christians. One has to wonder why it is alright to criticize one group and to wish
them dead, yet it becomes wrong to apply the same idea to the originators of the Judeo-Christian mythology that has plagued
the world for so many centuries.
"Cross of Black Steel" is not the most impressive track, as it is one of the earliest
examples of Clandestine Blaze attempting to utilize riffs inspired by Celtic Frost and these songs always seem to fall flat.
This mid-paced tune is not all that bad, but it is rather uninteresting and seems to be a waste when compared to the other
songs. Nonetheless, it does serve well to break up the monotony of the album, shifting gears for a few minutes, though he
could have worked harder to make the song more dynamic.
The title track returns to the faster tempo from before, utilizing
a similar overall structure and approach. This song features a very hypnotic main riff, within the framework of raw minimalism
that Clandestine Blaze excels at. Mikko's vocals are deeper than those of most other Black Metal vocalists, but it works well
as yet another element to separate this band from the countless others that employ a similar style. The song is very repetitive,
but never boring. The guitar melodies are haunting and will likely remain with you long after the album has concluded.
Death" continues the fast-paced and minimalist approach, while standing out from the others and maintaining its own identity.
The atmosphere takes on a more bleak and dreary feeling, as a mournful guitar melody emerges, from time to time. There are
no instances where one gets even a brief glimmer of hope. This drains your spirit and leaves you nearly empty. Everything
is very subtle, and yet highly effective. The production helps, as it is raw and yet with a clear focus on the guitars. This
shows vast improvement over the first release.
The less-than-stellar Celtic Frost vibe returns on "There's Nothing".
It is a shame that Mikko did not try to work this influence into the songs in a different manner, rather than writing bland
songs that stuck to the basic formula and fail to keep the listener's attention. As with the previous mid-paced song, it at
least works to break things up and give you a chance to rest.
"Aikakausi on Lyhyt" shifts back to the Transilvanian Hunger style, though with a little less success than some of the previous songs. This is not
a bad track; however, it does not quite stand up to the earlier ones. It is the only song on here with Finnish lyrics, something
that Clandestine Blaze did not often do.
The final song is "Future Lies in Hands of the Strong", which is a slower
song with influences from Burzum. It is more of an outro, really, as there is no definite structure and the only vocals seem
to be distant screams and gargled noises that are difficult to decipher. After a few minutes, the same ominous sound from
the intro returns to end things.
All in all, Night of the Unholy Flames is
a very good album and reall shows a lot of improvement from Fire Burns In Our Hearts.
This is the moment where Clandestine Blaze really developed its own sound and rose to the top of the Finnish underground.
This shows a very good re-interpretation of the Second Wave Black Metal sound, as defined by the Norwegians in the early-'90s.
Mikko takes a good amount of inspiration, and upholds the traditions, yet adds his own vision in order to create something
unique. If you are a fan of raw, minimalist Black Metal, seek this out.
(6 Feb. 2007)
Deathspell Omega / Clandestine Blaze split (2001)
By 2001, Deathspell Omega has only released a demo and one full-length (which actually
contained only four new songs, with the rest taken from the demo). Clandestine Blaze had two albums already, though the first
one was of lower quality than most demos. The point being that neither band was as established as they would become. As a
result of this, as well as the fact that Mikko seemed to be pretty well acquainted with Shaxul and Hasjarl, they decided to
release a split album through Mikko's label, Northern Heritage. Neither band had truly realized their own styles, fully, and
it is doubtful that either knew that they would later combine their sounds to create a new identity for Deathspell Omega.
At any rate, the songs here are fairly strong, though not the most impressive of either band's career.
Side A features Clandestine Blaze, starting with "Will To Kill". This lengthy song
takes a minute or so to really get going, presumably in an effort to create a dark atmosphere. Once it gets going, it is the
standard fast style in the vein of early Darkthrone, complete with blasting drums and tremolo riffs. The sound is better than
that found on their first album, though it doesn't seem to be at the same level as Night of the Unholy Flames, though
it's not far off. His vocals, as usual, are a bit deeper than one might expect from this kind of music, which may help in
differentiating it from some of the bands being emulated. While Clandestine Blaze would go on to forge their own identity,
while still maintaining this sound at their core, this was still developing by this point. An additional lead melody, near
the end, brings more life to the song but doesn't last very long.
"Blasphemous Lust" is pure Hellhammer / Celtic Frost worship. One has to wonder if
Mikko was actually so much a fan of these bands or if this is simply a continuation of his tribute to Darkthrone, perhaps
being ignorant to the fact that they had taken this sound from the aforementioned bands. Either way, it's quite boring. Almost
all of the Hellhammer-influenced songs from Clandestine Blaze are tiresome and far too derivative of the original to warrant
its inclusion on the album.
The next song is another short one, though it's far superior. "Raping the Innocent"
features a very clean-sounding tremolo riff (that seems to have had some distortion added after the fact). As the song really
gets going, the riff changes and the listener is left somewhat disappointed. A couple minutes later, the more interesting
melody returns. However, it is ephemeral. It is always frustrating when a musician drops something that has a lot of potential
in favour of less-inspired riffs.
"Genocide Operation" is the longest song on the split, clocking in over eight and a
half minutes. It is also the best of the Clandestine Blaze tracks. This one reminds one of Burzum, with the slow pace and
the style of riffing. It has a very cold and mournful atmosphere, with additional notes flowing through to increase the sense
of despondency. This epic composition may be one of the more ambitious efforts from this point in Clandestine Blaze's career.
It is very minimalist and primitive, yet it manages to create quite a dreary feeling. It leaves you feeling drained of all
energy, simply waiting for your inevitable death. As the cold hand rips into your chest and takes your weakened heart within
its icy grip, you have neither the will nor the desire to resist.
Side B features Deathspell Omega, and they waste no time in getting started with "Bestial
Orgies". In total contrast to the atmospheric song that ended Side A, the band unleashes cold tremolo riffs, semi-fast drumming
and raspier vocals that are more suitable to the music. The drums actually sound real, as opposed to those on Infernal
Battles, so this is already an improvement. The guitars possess a sharp sound, but not nearly as raw as the old Darkthrone
albums that they are hoping to recreate. With this first song, the band displays that they have improved quite a bit in the
time since their debut album was released.
"The Suicide Curse" is the highlight of Side B. It begins with a very clear tremolo
riff that appears to be the focus of the song, above vocals or drums. This is a very good thing, as the guitar riffs should
always come first. The style employed here is almost reminiscent of Hirilorn, the previous band of Shaxul and Hasjarl, in
the sense that the lead melodies are very clean-sounding. As the song progresses, the pace slows down and there are some open-arpeggio
riffs that add depth to the atmosphere, hearkening back to the old Burzum albums. However, the feeling is quite different
here. The song then speeds up again, utilizing a different tremolo riff but maintaining the high tension. This transitions
back into the first riff, which is utterly brilliant. Regardless of whether or not it's based on some earlier work of Darkthrone
or Gorgoroth, this is pulled off very well.
The split ends with "Seal of Perversion". It appears that the songs should have been
placed in a different order, as this can in no way compete with the previous song. It's solid enough, surely, but very few
songs could have successfully followed "The Suicide Curse". This one is, again, in the Transilvanian Hunger vein,
consisting of blasting drums and tremolo riffs. There is definitely a chaotic feeling that runs through Deathspell Omega's
work, yet it's always very cohesive. Mid-way through the song, the pace slows down a bit and becomes oddly catchy. It then
returns to the previous tempo. The song, probably, goes a little longer than it should; it might have had a stronger impact
if it had been more concise. However, there are no serious complaints other than the poor placement of this song. It feels
anti-climactic when following something of such high quality.
All in all, this release displays the further development of these two bands, with
Deathspell Omega showing marked improvement over their previous output. This is a worthy purchase for fans of either band.
(22 Sept. 2009)
Following the split with Deathspell Omega in 2001, Clandestine Blaze
released a series of demos before their next full-length, 2002's Fist of the Northern Destroyer.
The first of these demo tapes was Beneath the Surface of Cold Earth, released in a
limited number as only 400 were made and distributed, at the time. The material on here is very much in line with the albums
that precede and follow it, and there are certainly no surprises to be found. It is a rather unremarkable release, except
for the fact that the title track served as my introduction to the band, nearly a decade ago.
"Beneath the Surface
of Cold Earth" begins with a mid-paced riff that is very reminiscent of Burzum. The feeling is cold and grim, with a slight
hint of melancholy. As the song progresses, the pace picks up and the open-arpeggio chords transition to tremolo-picked melodies
that are accompanied by rapid-fire drumming. The faster sections are, as always, in the vein of old Darkthrone. This mixture
has been fairly consistent throughout the entire career of Clandestine Blaze. The slower parts possess much more atmosphere
than the rest, but as a whole this is a very solid track and certainly of high enough quality that I was motivated to seek
out more of the band's material, upon hearing this for the first time.
The next song is one of Mikko's obligatory Hellhammer/Celtic
Frost tributes, and it is not very interesting. For whatever reason, the man simply cannot construct a decent song in this
style. Whenever he attempts it, the result is always boring and uninspired.
"Funeral of Humanity" is the final track,
and it returns to the type of style that this one-man band is most successful at. The cold tremolo riffs hearken back to the
days of Transilvanian Hunger, though Clandestine Blaze has always been good about
making sure that the songs are composed of equal amounts of hero-worship and original ideas. After a few minutes, the atmosphere
takes on an added sense of doom, thanks to the inclusion of a slower riff that hovers over the proceedings like a black cloud.
As the faster melodies emerge once more, there is an epic quality present that can not be fully explained. The variation in
percussion offers a bit of an assist, allowing the riff to breathe a little more. As the track slows down and reaches its
conclusion, a rather pointless outro drags on for the final few minutes.
The material on Beneath
the Surface of Cold Earth is nothing terribly special, but it is worth a listen if the opportunity arises. However,
it is not recommended that one should go to great lengths to obtain this, as the full-lengths are of the same or higher quality.
(21 Sept. 2011)
Fist of the Northern Destroyer is the third full-length from Clandestine Blaze.
It was recorded in March 2002 and later released on Mikko Aspa's own Northern Heritage record label. With this album, the
trademark sound of Clandestine Blaze was fully established and the position near the top of the Finnish Black Metal scene
After hearing the Below the Surface of Cold Earth demo, I began my search
for any Clandestine Blaze material that I could get my hands on. This album had just been released, so it was the most accessible.
Looking back, it's a good thing that I ran across this rather than the debut, as I may have given up on the band at that point.
This one had enough of an impact that I soon sought out the earlier releases and then kept up with those that followed.
The album begins with "Fist of the Northern Destroyer", which opens with an uncharacteristic
scream and a very high-energy tempo. The sound is very similar to the low-fi, organic feeling that was present on the previous
release, making these two the only albums in the band's discography that possess such a similar sound. This song is fast-paced
and very memorable. It utilizes the familiar tremolo-picked melodies that owe something to the old Darkthrone albums, yet
Mikko has created his own unique style of playing, within this basic framework. While one can hear the influences, it is undeniably
Clandestine Blaze. The vocals are still on the deeper end of the Black Metal spectrum, being filled with utter hatred and
contempt. This is good music for beating someone to death, with your bare hands.
"Praising the Self" features a vastly different atmosphere than the first song, being
much slower and possessing more of an epic feeling. The music is very minimalist, as Mikko understands well that musical vision
comes before showing off. This is one of the main reasons he has kept this as a solo project, since he knows that many would
become bored with the simplistic approach that is required to realize his artistic vision. The song employs more tremolo riffs,
for the opening minutes, though they are played over slower drums, thus giving an entirely different feel. The song then shifts
toward using the arpeggio riffs as well as some simple strumming to create a more dismal and cold feeling. This is soon joined
by a simple, yet highly effective, lead solo that adds to the mournful feeling of loss and hopelessness. The melodies are
absolutely haunting and will remain in your subconscious until the glorious day of your demise.
The next song is "Doll of Darkness", which returns to a faster pace. With the fast
tremolo riffs and the frenetic drumming, this embraces repetition for the purpose of lulling the listener into a trance, receptive
to the dark and hateful message conveyed through the music. This is one of the least dynamic songs on the album, yet it fulfills
"Ribs of Virgin" is another song in the vein of Hellhammer / Celtic Frost. This one
is slightly more interesting than previous attempts at this style, but I maintain the position that these riffs should be
kept only as a part of other songs, as opposed to making an entire song in this style. They are always the most boring ones
on any Clandestine Blaze album, for one reason or another. The lead solo and old school drumming save this one, but it's still
one of the least impressive songs on here.
The more melodic side of the band returns with "There Comes the Day". The sound returns
to the fast-paced Black Metal, inspired by the second wave. The guitar melodies possess a sharper sound, making them stand
out quite a bit more. Though it clocks in just under four minutes, this is certainly one of the most memorable songs on the
album. The sound is somehow mournful and dark, yet optimistic in the sense that there is hope for the triumph of chaos over
"There comes the day
When streets are colored with blood
And burden of humanity
Is left behind"
"Goat - Creative Alienation" returns to the slower style of emulating Celtic Frost.
The song also features riffs reminiscent of Burzum, and the two are mixed quite well. The melodies are hypnotic and dismal,
giving the impression of having your soul dragged through the shadows of Hell. Nothing is entirely clear, but the sensations
are undeniable. This is the feeling of terror and dread just before the true torment and suffering begin.
The album ends with "I Have Seen...", which is an epic song that clocks in over ten
minutes in length. It begins with the sparse chords being played along with a distant tremolo melody, creating an abstract
feeling. This changes as the drums come in, carrying things along at full speed. The nearly-gargled vocals instill a sense
of utter contempt and hatred, though this isn't as aggressive as the first song. About halfway through the song, the pace
slows down once more and atmosphere darkens. The open-arpeggio riffing that is synonymous with early Burzum is on full display
here, creating a very desolate feeling. After a couple minutes, the speed picks up again and continues through the end of
the song, where an otherworldy outro finishes things off.
"When pulling out the knife
I have found god in myself "
Fist of the Northern Destroyer is highly recommended. It is one of the best
Clandestine Blaze albums, as well as being one of the few from the modern scene that I find to be worthwhile. One cannot categorically
label all newer music as bad, but it's increasingly difficult to discover anything of substance. This is one of those albums.
(22 Sept. 2009)
Satanic Warmaster / Clandestine Blaze split (2004)
In late 2003, Werwolf of Satanic Warmaster and Mikko Aspa of Clandestine Blaze came
up with the idea to do a split that featured both bands. However, their approach to this was a little unconventional. With
both of them being the sole member of their respective bands, they decided to include a few collaborative tracks. So, to go
along with the one song, a piece, that each band contributed, they also recorded four as a two-piece. Werwolf handled the
guitars and bass, while Mikko takes care of the drumming. They trade off on the vocals, each writing their own lyrics. The
results were released through Northern Heritage, in February 2004.
The split begins with "Intro/My Torments", the intro
being adequate enough, almost reminiscent of something from the Hellraiser series. After a couple minutes, it fades as Werwolf
begins to scream and the guitars follow. He handles the vocals, on this song, though one might guess that Mikko had some input
regarding the opening riff. About four minutes in, the song finally starts. The vocals are weak and the drums are mixed too
high. It's very fast-paced, in the vein of Transilvanian Hunger. To be honest, though both bands have long used the
aforementioned album as a template for their own works, they usually added a bit of their own feeling to the songs. Here,
it seems more generic than usual. The production quality is similar to a garage rehearsal, though this isn't always a bad
thing. In this case, it drags the music down, a slight bit. All in all, a below average start for the split.
Fires" starts with some feedback, before going into a slow Celtic Frost-inspired riff. This song was, obviously, written by
Mikko as he has a tendency to include similar songs on every single release in Clandestine Blaze's discography. It's not terribly
bad, but it's grown a little boring by this point. Some riffs are taken directly from Morbid Tales, only slowed down
a bit. I guess this is fitting, since Gabriel had previously stolen the riff from Venom. So far, this split is hardly worth
the effort of taking the CD out of its case.
The next song, "Conspiring Winds of the Abyss", starts out with more feedback.
This is already annoying. Thankfully, it's one of the better songs on here. Werwolf is back on vocals, as the song is yet
another tribute to Transilvanian Hunger. It consists of cold tremolo riffs and fast drumming. The vocals are a far
cry from the masterful work of Nocturno Culto, but that's no surprise. The main riff is one of the best on the split. It's
completely derivative of Darkthrone, but at least it's done competently enough. The pace slows down, near the middle, giving
a nice eerie feeling. This doesn't last too long, though it produces a nice trance-like riff that is reminiscent of early
"Disease" is another song with Mikko on vocals, beginning with even more feedback. He really lets loose
on this song, with some shrieking mixing in with his usual vocals. Musically, it's another fast-pace, tremolo-driven song
in the early Norwegian mould. There's a little variation in the drumming, but this is overshadowed by the fact that Mikko
seems to really be struggling to keep up on this track. There is a cool lead solo, late in the song, that kind of salvages
things from being excessively boring. It's not too bad, but I expected a little more from both of these guys.
is followed by a Clandestine Blaze song, "Guided By the Black Light". Here, Mikko returns to the deeper style of vocals that
he is known for, while the guitar playing is a little heavier. The slow parts of the song possess an eerie feeling, yielding
some haunting melodies. The faster parts are quite awful, really, being poorly executed. It's sad, but I've rehearsed with
worthless garage bands that played tighter than this. The worst part is that it's a result of pure laziness, as anyone familiar
with Clandestine Blaze knows that Mikko is capable of much better. It is clear that hardly any effort was put into this.
the Legions" is a Satanic Warmaster song. The opening is not very good, as the attempt to match the tortured screams of Count
Grishnackh come off as laughable. Once beyond this, the rest of the song is actually fairly decent. It features a rather catchy
take on the typical Celtic Frost-type rif. The vocals are a bit strained, but far better than the weak screams that opened
the track. A few minutes in, the song picks up speed and returns to the Darkthrone worship that preceded this. Despite this,
there are also more riffs in the Finnish style that one would expect from the same guy that recorded Opferblut. A lead
melody flows through, temporarily, to add some epic sense to the proceedings. Mikko should have played drums on this one as
well, since the timing is off at one point. Outside of the first minute, this is probably the most enjoyable song on the album,
after "Conspiring Winds of the Abyss". The outro is completely necessary, but it's pleasant enough. It has kind of a somber
feeling, which goes nicely with the disappointment that the listeners are surely experiencing.
This split is little
more than a Finnish Black Metal tribute to Darkthrone. There are a couple decent songs and a few nice riffs to be found, but
it's hardly something that is worth any great amount of effort to track down. I have to say that both of these guys are capable
of better, though I get the impression that this release was meant to have that rehearsal/jam feeling. If that is true, they
certainly achieved this. The raw production is is fine, but the sloppy playing is unacceptable. Though both bands rely heavily
on their influences, they've also managed to incorporate their own style into the mix, moreso in the case of Clandestine Blaze
than with Satanic Warmaster. Either way, here, this element seems to be lacking for the most part.
(30 Sept. 2009)
Deliverers of Faith is the fourth full-length from Clandestine Blaze. This
opus stands as the darkest album recorded by this Finnish Black Metal band. Released in December 2004, this album was limited
to 500 vinyl copies and 1500 CD copies, meaning that I'm even more thankful to the kind soul that sent this as a gift, over
a year later. I can't imagine not being able to hear this album as it is the pinnacle of Mikko Aspa's creativity. This came
out many months after Deathspell Omega's Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, and I'd say that it is the more solid
of the two records.
The album begins with "Beyond the Reason", which starts with some feedback that leads
into the main riff. Right away, the only real flaw of the album is revealed. The production is a step down from what was achieved
on Fist of the Northern Destroyer. I felt that the sound of that album was perfect for Clandestine Blaze. Here, the
drums sound odd and a bit louder than I would think necessary. In a way, this takes away from the guitar melodies, which are
standard fast tremolo-picked riffs on this song. However, with all that said, one slowly adopts a new perspective as the track
progresses. The production works well with the songwriting to create an otherworldly atmosphere; one of eerie detachment from
reality. This music pulls you through a portal to another dimension. In this place, everything is just a little off from what
you are used to; just enough that you are incredibly uncomfortable and disturbed. This feeling will only grow as the album
goes along. Musically, this song consists of sections of typical fast-paced Second Wave Black Metal mixed in with old school
Celtic Frost rhythms, producing something ugly and almost frightening.
"Psychopathia Sexualis" continues to borrow the riffing style of Mikko's Swiss heroes.
Why he chooses to do this on every single Clandestine Blaze release, I am not sure. It's almost like an obligatory thing,
as if he has to include some old school Black Metal references to legitimize himself... or he reallt, really likes these kind
of riffs and doesn't realize that he's not terribly good at them. This one isn't all that bad, though it's all the other things
that are added along with the main riff that really help to carry it. There are some horrific screams in the background, at
certain points, that add to the strange feeling. More or less, this mid-paced song plods along and is one of the least memorable
of the record, though it does nothing to take away from it, either.
The next song is the most epic composition, perhaps, of the entire Clandestine Blaze
discography. "Winter of White Death" creates an ominous aura of desolation and terror. It begins slowly, with sparse chords
that crawl under your skin and a haunting melody that slithers up your arms, moving toward your torso. Once there, it reaches
out and tears at your heart while applying awful pressure to your lungs. The sound is utterly dismal and darker than black.
A desolate tremolo riff is then joined by the drums, still seeming out of place but adding to the overall effect in an unexpected
manner. This song takes you to a place where all of your worst fears become reality; to a world of unending torment and suffering
beyond that which you've ever experienced. Here, you re-live the most painful moments of your life and find that even the
pleasant times were but an illusion brought on by your own insanity. This song crawls along at a funereal pace, creating this
horrific soundscape through minimalism and artistic vision. There are no symphonies or choirs added to this. It is barren
and bleak, much like the atmosphere it produces. Even during the best of times, listening to this imbues the listener with
an unsettling feeling. This is mournful and cold, suitable for one's final moments on this rotten earth. In fact, this is
the type of musical piece that could send an already weakened person over the edge of sanity and into death's embrace.
"Falling" follows with a return to the speed and intensity from the first song. The
melancholy tremolo riffs and fast drumming return, doing well to carry on the tradition of Transilvanian Hunger while
being immersed within the nightmarish melodies of Clandestine Blaze. Mikko's vocals possess enough reverb on this album to
really give a strange and distant feeling to them. It adds to the uncomfortable and disjointed sense that this record bears.
Around the middle of the song, the riff changes and is accompanied by a blood-chilling voice that seems to be moaning from
deep within the abyss. The tension continues to build until everything slows down, briefly. This is followed by the return
of the original riff and more half-shrieked screams to go along with the normal ones. In the closing moments, these screams
are joined by the moaning from before, which is no wmuch louder. You are getting deeper and deeper...
This is followed by "Tormented", which starts with slow doom riffs that maintain the
rather unpleasant feeling that has been conveyed, thus far. It is, more or less, a slowed-down Hellhammer riff. There also
seems to be some faint keyboard presence, adding another layer to the terrifying aura that this music possesses. It fades
out, before the hateful vocals begin, returning in between verses. This only increases the sense that you've been pulled from
your body and dragged into some unknown hell dimension. Half-way through, a lone tremolo riff rises from the fiery depths
and is joined by tortured screams, mirroring those which reside within your own being. As this lengthy journey continues,
you find yourself expecting the night to soon end. You look forward to any sign of light, as you are lost in this void of
nightmarish despair. But time stands still, here. This night will never end... your suffering has only just begun.
"Grave of Gratification" starts out with one of the most memorable riffs of the whole
album. It features a tremolo melody that is supported by fast-paced drumming, building upon the tension and dread already
created by previous songs. To say that this bears an epic feeling is an understatement. It is the climax of the whole album,
yet in some ways what it represents is only the beginning of your eternal journey through true darkness. This is the kind
of music that infects your soul, yet you appreciate it all the more for this fact, oblivious to the slow spiritual death that
this will cause. Like a moth to a flame, you cannot help but be drawn to these miserable and tormented sounds. It is pleasing
to listen to, as the music is well-crafted, yet the experience is unpleasant and almost painful. It serves to reveal those
frail illusions that you've used as a crutch to get through this miserable life. It strips you of all that you hold dear,
raping your dreams and poisoning your hopes. In the latter half, things slow down and the eerie feeling is intensified. Desolate
screams are heard, coming from all sides, like spectres of your own failures. While your body falls into the lonely grave,
unmarked and unmourned, your spirit is taken to depths unfathomable, where the real torment shall soon begin. As the final
dissonant chords fade, the final indecipherable screams call out to haunt you for eternity...
(3 October 2009)
Church of Atrocity is the fifth and, so far, final release from Finland's
Clandestine Blaze. It would appear that, by this point, the band had become more of a side project of Mikko Aspa, as he was
investing more and more time onto Deathspell Omega. In a sense, it's understandable, as DsO had really caught on and was growing
in popularity, following 2004's Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice. Mikko was still overflowing with enough creativity
to produce a monument of his own, in the form of Deliverers of Faith. However, as 2006 rolled around, he'd already
contributed to yet another DsO release (the Kenose E.P.) and was working on material for Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem
Aeternum (an album that I still haven't listened to, all the way through). As a result, he had less and less time for
his original band. Though die-hard Clandestine Blaze fans were eagerly awaiting the follow-up to the brilliance of Deliverers
of Faith, what they got on the 31st of October 2006 was somewhat of a let-down.
I just happened to check the Northern Heritage website, and was surprised to see that
a new album had been released just a week earlier. Since Clandestine Blaze was among the few newer bands that I supported,
I quickly ordered the album and eagerly anticipated its arrival. In our frozen apartment, I hastily explored this offering,
but it did not meet my expectations. I hoped for something that would follow the approach found on the previous album, but
this seemed like a step backward. Also, it came off like something that had been rushed. My theory was that Mikko was too
busy with Deathspell Omega to truly immerse himself in this project anymore, thus this served as a farewell to his fans.
The title track is up first, and the initial complaint comes right away. The opening
riff has no melody to it; it simply exists to create noise. There is no effect, no atmosphere. It is entirely pointless. This
is but an exercise in going through the motions, more or less. It takes about a minute for a haunting melody to creep in,
and it seems to be buried a bit, in the mix. It also disappears too quickly. Vocally, this is what would be expected; no change
at all. Mikko never had the greatest vocals, but they're fairly easy to identify. Things settle down, briefly, in the middle
of the song, before speeding back up. If the point of the lifeless, droning riff is to provide some contrast to the bleak
melody that is sparsely interwoven into the song, it was not done to its full potential. It dominates far to much of the song,
and makes this one less enjoyable than it should have been.
"Ashes of the Eternal Wanderer" is next, and this is the longest song on the album.
This epic clocks in at just under twelve minutes, and possesses much more feeling than the last track. One could almost compare
this to "Winter of White Death", from the previous record. It's mid-paced and bearing an overwhelming atmosphere of melancholy
and sorrow. The production, on this album, is harsher than on the last few, but it suits the music well enough. The bass stands
out on a way not previously heard, adding to the miserable aura. It weighs heavily on your heart, making it difficult to breathe.
By the time the vocals enter the soundscape, the feeling is slightly less dismal, simply because Mikko's approach is more
evil than tortured. In between verses, we return to the main riff and it slowly drains you of all will to go on living. As
those things you need so badly are torn from you, your existence is enveloped by a nightmarish chaos from which you know no
escape. The depressing sounds serve only to drown any hopes that you have been clinging to. There is no escaping the pain
or the loss. Your hopes and dreams shall be reduced to ashes. The song later transitions to something without form or direction,
becoming more atmospheric yet less anguished, as the flames overtake all.
The next song is the obligatory Celtic Frost worship, "Storm of Purification". I've
observed that every album must have one of these, regardless of whether or not it fits into the scheme of things. This isn't
as boring as some of the others, but I've rarely found them to really flow well with the rest of the material. At any rate,
it sounds about a thousand times more evil than anything Tom Warrior was ever involved in, so there's something to be said
"Last Morning of Old North" returns to the feeling established by "Ashes...", being
mid-paced, dismal and hauntingly dark. At his best, Mikko is among the elite in creating a truly black and hopeless atmosphere
through his music. At times, it becomes unreal in a sense, going beyond his predecessors in terms of creating something that
can only be described as abysmal and otherworldy. Beyond the opening moments, the song picks up in speed and would best be
compared to Transilvanian Hunger-era Darkthrone, though being 100% identifiable as Clandestine Blaze. I've always
felt that it is perfectly fine to have obvious influences, so long as you've added something unique to your own writing abilities,
to make it different. Later in the song, the tremolo riffs and fast drumming gives way to a return of the opening melody,
filling your mind with thoughts of misery and self-torment. The lyrics of this song are among the most interesting, as they
obviously refer to the problems being face by Northern Europe, regarding immigration and the way in which most of Europe is
being given away to outsiders, while they willingly let this happen and do nothing to defend their homeland. With this in
mind, it becomes all the more depressing.
This is followed by "Frozen Angel", a song that starts out with a nice old school Black
Metal sound. This one has more of the old Celtic Frost feeling, though filtered through Darkthrone as opposed to coming straight
from Morbid Tales. By that, I mean that it really sounds like something taken from Darkthrone's interpretation of
Hellhammer / Celtic Frost. It's a fairly decent track that never really builds up much speed, but there's the sense that it
could have been a little better.
The final track is "Unforgiven Acts", which takes the listener back to the Darkthrone-inspired
tremolo melodies and fast yet primitive drumming. This songs features memorable riffs and could be compared to the final song
from the previous album, in terms of structure. It utilizes similar sound effects, in an effort to produce the same nightmarish
effect. The end result is not as profound, but this is one of the better songs on the album.
Church of Atrocity has its moments, but I don't feel that it is the album
that Mikko was capable of giving us, nor do I think that it is a proper finishing point for Clandestine Blaze. One can only
hope that, once the hype surrounding DsO dies down a bit, he may have time to really develop his ideas and make another solo
album that reaches its full potential. While the songs on here are kind of hit and miss, none of them are bad. There are a
few good songs and a few that needed more time and energy put into them. In the end, the good moments make the album worthwhile,
so long as you're not expecting another Deliverers of Faith.
(14 Oct. 2009)
Falling Monuments is the first
full-length album to be released from Finland's Clandestine Blaze in quite some time. Arriving at the end of December 2010,
from Northern Heritage Records, four long years had passed since the last album, Church of
Atrocity. It seemed that the band was put to rest with that record, since Mikko was busy with Deathspell Omega. In
a sense, it was almost as if this had become a forgotten side-project that he no longer had time for. Even the last album
was rather lackluster, compared to those that had preceded it. Clandestine Blaze was never really known for being terribly
original; more than anything, the band served to keep alive the basic sound and spirit of the Second Wave of Black Metal,
with a little something else added in. However, a clear progression could be seen over the course of the first few albums.
2004's Deliverers of Faith marked the high point of Mikko's creativity, something
that was lacking on Church of Atrocity. Following that release, Clandestine Blaze
seemed to fade into nothingness, destined to remain a footnote as the solo project of the DsO vocalist, and nothing more.
four years of silence and making pretentious music that no longer had anything to do with Black Metal, the old spirit began
to stir and Mikko felt the need to return to his roots. Much like with the last album, Falling
Monuments had very little promotion and I only learned of the release by chance. Due
to the feeling of being somewhat let down by Church of Atrocity, I was somewhat hesitant
to give this a listen, despite the lengthy amount of time since the band's last output. Upon first listen, the album is not
particularly impressive and does not do much to correct the mistakes from the last outing. Nonetheless, it is another decent
slab of northern Black Metal that is sure to satiate those needing more of this type of music.
begins with an intro that is reminiscent of the one used for the Satanic Warmaster / Clandestine Blaze split. Noises that
almost remind one of something from the Hellraiser films are joined by distant and tormented screams. Suddenly, the music
comes in and begins pounding your skull. Fast tremolo riffs and blasting drums signal the return of one of Finland's least
known Black Metal bands. The production is a bit strange, being kind of hard on the ears at first. This keeps in line with
the last few albums, since he chose unorthodox sounds for each one, for one reason or another. The drums are a little too
loud in the mix, though this might please those who always complain about how low the percussion is in minimalist Black Metal.
After a couple minutes, the pace slows a bit, before a more miserable and torturous melody dominates the sound and is joined
by howls of despair. The final moments of the song are the most memorable and it is at this point that your ears begins getting
used to the odd mixing.
The next song is "Possession of Nordic Blood", which is more mid-paced and features some ominous
riffs. The sound is very primitive, yet still has the trademark Clandestine Blaze melodies and is slightly disturbing, yet
not as dark as it could be. Typically, Mikko includes one or two mid-paced tracks that rip off Celtic Frost riffs, and end
up being boring as hell. Thankfully, this one is still dynamic enough to avoid falling into such traps.
"Call of the
Warrior" begins with some simplistic and rather boring riffs, before speeding up and becoming a little more interesting. The
riffs are difficult to hear, but some sort of horn accompanies the proceedings and gives more character and helps add a feeling
of dread to the song. It could be something else entirely, but that is what is sounds like. There are some decent riffs, but
the production hinders any possibility of fully appreciating them. In that sense, it's almost like some of the old Moonblood
rehearsal tapes; there would be brilliant melodies that were impossible to really soak in, due to the poor sound. Necro production
is one thing, but one should always ensure that the guitars are clear enough for the full effect to be felt. In this case,
it's walking a fine line.
This is followed by "Melancholy of the Falling Monuments", which is a slower-paced song that
really drains the life out of you. From the first moments, this manages to stand out from the rest of the songs as one of
the true highlights of the record. Mikko's vocals hearken back to the early days of the Second Wave, reminiscent of Nocturno
Culto, in a way. The riffs are sorrowful and one can feel the hopelessness and the urge to turn away from the dying world,
to simply crawl into an open grave and forget all that has been lost. There is no longer any will to fight and reclaim what
once was; rather, it is easier to sacrifice all hopes and dreams and to just put the blade to your flesh and begin carving
until the snow is stained with your blood. The song is very minimalist, yet subtle additions come near the end to ensure that
the somber atmosphere crushes your spirit.
"Bloodsoil" picks up the pace, after a brief intro. The cold tremolo riffs
don't sound terribly original, and you almost get the sense that you've heard these same melodies from this band before, but
it is all well done, nevertheless. Again, the drumming is a little too high in the mix, but the guitars are able to cut through.
This track is very reminiscent of old Burzum, especially as the pace slows down and a tortured scream leads into a section
where nothing is left but a lone guitar. Nothing is wrong with this, especially since Varg is no longer interested in keeping
his old sound alive.
The next song is "Horizon of Ego Annihilation", another mid-paced song that features good use
of tremolo riffs to accentuate the power chords. The vocals are placed well, suiting the dreary aura quite well. As the riffs
change, one gets the sense that something horrible will soon happen, and that the worst is yet to come. The song is very short,
clocking in at just under three minutes, but its simple melodies are effective.
"Endurance of Supremacist Ritual" starts
out with slow doom riffs, before the drumming kicks in and an eerily familiar guitar melody rises from the darkness. It should
be easily recognizable to any fan of Norwegian Black Metal, as it was ripped straight from "Where Cold Winds Blow", from Darkthrone's
A Blaze in the Northern Sky. Odd that Mikko took four years in between Clandestine
Blaze releases, yet was unable to write a full album of original material. The song is not bad, but I preferred it the first
time I heard it... on the Darkthrone record.
Finally, the album ends with "Discordant Howls of Tormented". This is
another mid-paced track, featuring some rather miserable sounds, though not as dark as anything found on Deliverers of Faith. After a couple minutes, the song speeds up with blasting drums and fast tremolo-picked
guitar riffs, soon joined by the haunting sounds of a funeral organ. This small addition manages to do a lot for the atmosphere
of the song, which is somewhat strange to think of since Clandestine Blaze always managed to do so well with so little, in
the past. The song fails to deliver the type of soul-crushing despondency that is alluded to in the opening moments, due to
odd structuring and ideas that are never fully built upon. While possessing some of the best riffs of the album, the song
clearly struggles at some points.
Much like Sargeist, Clandestine Blaze was dormant for several years. However, unlike
his Finnish peers, Mikko was unable to return to form in a way that makes the listener feel that the lengthy wait was worthwhile.
Falling Monuments has its moments, but one gets the sense that the brilliance that
was touched upon with Deliverers of Faith will never again be matched, as many of
the ideas that made that album what it was were stripped away and used for Deathspell Omega instead, leaving Clandestine Blaze
with only the more primitive and less-inspiring material. The new album is solid enough and is by no means bad, but one would
expect a bit more from a band that has been silent for four years.
(20 Mar. 2011)
Clandestine Blaze is a rather obscure band from Finland. It seems that
the last several albums are released almost in secret, as news spreads so slowly and not much is mentioned about them. Even
on Mikko's own Northern Heritage website, the mention of his latest release is usually buried in with everything else, with
no special attention given to it. So it is no surprise that, despite the album being released in May 2013, I am just now learning
of the existence of Harmony of Struggle. Thankfully, fans of Clandestine Blaze were not subjected to another four-year
waiting period, as before. Especially since the last two albums, Church of Atrocity and Falling Monuments, were
mediocre when compared to the Mikko's earlier works. As such, expectations for this record were rather low. This was a good
thing, as it led to somewhat of a pleasant surprise to find that this collection of songs seems a bit more inspired and coherent
than the last couple of releases.
Past albums from Clandestine Blaze have been characterized by somewhat
odd production jobs, yet Harmony of Struggle sounds much less awkward and possesses a better sound than its immediate
predecessor, in particular. Whereas the last record was distorted in the wrong ways, enough to negatively affect the overall
atmosphere, this effort is instantly more pleasing to the ears. The guitar tone is powerful and raw, with no excess irregularities
in the sound. At times, it hearkens back to Night of the Unholy Flames and Fist of the Northern Destroyer, especially
during the faster parts. The drums are at just the right level, rather than pounding on top of everything. The percussion
is more blunt, rather than possessing the hollow and distracting sound that was present on some previous albums. The vocals
sound nearly identical to most of the band's previous works. Mikko's voice has always been deeper than most standard Black
Metal vocals, and buried just enough to allow the guitar melodies to be the primary focus but still high enough to be easily
Musically, this is definitely the strongest work to be released under
the Clandestine Blaze name in nearly a decade. The songwriting is much more cohesive and the addition of eerie keyboards,
from time to time, really accentuates the riffs and the overall feel of the tracks in a positive way. While Fallen Monuments
was a step up from Church of Atrocity, in some aspects, the poor production was really detrimental and the whole thing
was rather forgettable. However, Harmony of Struggle is makes much more of an impact from the very first moments of
"Memento Mori". This morbid intro sets the tone for what is to come, somewhat reminiscent of Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice
from Deathspell Omega. This leads into the intense "White Corpse", which is a fast-paced track that belongs among the better
Darkthrone-inspired pieces that Clandestine Blaze has produced. Mikko always excelled when he went for the more straightforward
songs that featured tremolo riffs over fast and primitive drumming. "Messiah for the Dying World" and "Wings of the Archangel"
also follow this pattern, though the former also includes a more Celtic Frost-derived mid-section and a slower ending. While
certainly influenced by the sort of riffs present on Under A Funeral Moon and Transilvanian Hunger, he has always
managed to add his own unique take that made his band stand out among the legions of clones. Slower songs, such as "Myth Turned
Alive" and "Autumn of Blood and Steel" possess more power and add a bit more of a morbid feeling to things, with the latter
being book-ended by two more instrumentals. While the influence of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto can still be heard, the Burzum
influence that once made up a fairly strong part of the Clandestine Blaze sound has gradually faded.
Harmony of Struggle features some memorable songwriting and is
quite a solid album. With that said, it still lacks the severely eerie and darkened feel of Deliverers of Faith. It
would appear that, in retrospect, that record was an anomaly within the discography of Clandestine Blaze, as Mikko has never
before or since produced something with such a nightmarish feeling. Perhaps, it is unfair to compare all subsequent works
to that one. So, ignoring that, it would be safe to say that this new record is the best thing he has done in the past
ten years or so. It may be lacking something, similar to recent efforts from Horna and Sargeist, but this is a worthy listen
and should please fans of Clandestine Blaze or Finnish Black Metal, in general.
(29 July 2013)
Two years have passed since the last Clandestine Blaze album, and
very little of worth has emerged from the realm of Black Metal in that time. So many mediocre, forgettable, plastic, fake
and worthless recordings have polluted the scene, so it is extremely refreshing that Mikko has returned with another dose
of pure and uncompromising Finnish Black Metal, in the form of New Golgotha Rising.
Clandestine Blaze has always managed to maintain the traditions of
Black Metal while also adding something to it, proving that one needs not countless bells and whistles to dress up the music
if a true understanding of said music is possessed in the first place. While only clocking in at around thirty-eight minutes,
New Golgotha Rising feels far more immense and meaningful than one might expect. The songwriting is rather stripped-down
and primitive, but is not really minimalist in the same sense as Transilvanian Hunger or the old Branikald material.
Though the songs are pretty straightforward, there are enough variations in the riffing and also subtle changes in the percussion
that give a lively and often aggressive feeling to the songs. As usual, the compositions center around sombre and menacing
tremolo melodies, with a good mix of old school riffing thrown in. One can hear definite influences from the early albums
of Darkthrone and Burzum, which have long been key components to the foundation of this band. The latter begins to bleed through
in the second song, "Fractured Skull", which possesses an ominous feeling that hearkens back to tracks like "Praising the
Self" from Fist of the Northern Destroyer.
One thing that Clandestine Blaze has always been capable of is creating
a dark and unsettling atmosphere. It is not just that Mikko knows which notes to play, but he knows why they need to be played
and by which methods to best get the most out of each one. The opening riffs of "Consumed By Flames" really demonstrate this,
reminiscent of Darkthrone's "Where Cold Winds Blow". Bands such as Satanic Warmaster often displayed enough technical skill
to closely imitate the old bands, but always failed to give the songs any true depth or to imbue the listener with a sense
of dread. Clandestine Blaze is no shallow copy.
Often, throughout the career of this band, Mikko has tried his hand
at incorporating Celtic Frost influences, with varying degrees of success. It has only been in recent years that he has managed
to really work these bits into the rest, without it sounding disjointed. In the case of the title track, Fenriz would be very
proud of the way Tom Warrior's riffing style has been utilized to create something dark and evil, rather than boring and plodding.
In fact, this almost pays homage to Hellhammer's "Triumph of Death" with the tortured screams and genuinely plague-infected
feeling of the riffs.
The only real weak point of this record comes with "Culling the Species".
The choice of a cleaner vocal approach is quite odd and produces a strange effect. The music is not bad, but the vocals are
rather awkward and take some getting used to. I would recommend just skipping it, but some of the riffs are really worth hearing.
The gloomy and macabre feeling deepens with the final two tracks,
featuring a lot of mid-paced and funereal riffs. "Passage to New Creed" features somewhat of a false-finish, perhaps a nod
to classic Bathory. "Final Hours of Sacrifice" is the lengthiest song on here and offers absolutely no hope, no refuge and
not a trace of light breaks through this inescapable darkness. The slow intro is a harbinger of things to come, while the
main tremolo riffs wear you down and cut though you with an frigid sense of melancholy that will haunt long after the record
There's nothing plastic or disingenuous about this. The production
is appropriately raw, but retaining enough clarity for everything to be heard. As for the songwriting, there is nothing to
complain about. In an age where so many false bands wrongly whore out the aesthetics of Black Metal and receive undeserved
praise, Clandestine Blaze simply toils away in relative obscurity and continues to churn out worthwhile pieces of music that
remain true to the essence of Black Metal and do well to keep the black flame burning through these darkest of times. New
Golgotha Rising is very much recommended.
(11 Apr. 2015)
Clandestine Blaze has for several years been one of the most reliable
Black Metal bands of the modern era. Never the greatest, but always able to deliver consistent albums that uphold the traditions
of decades past. In February 2017, Mikko returned with his ninth full-length album, City of Slaughter.
For the most part, this L.P. offers precisely what one would expect from
Clandestine Blaze. Stylistically, there is no change from the previous records, which is a good thing. In general, the only
thing that Mikko really 'experiments' with has to be the production, which often takes a few listens to get acclimated to
some of his more peculiar choices. The guitars possess a rathe favourable tone, maintaining sort of a sharp and rusty sound.
As with Harmony of Struggle and New Golgotha Rising, the drums can be distracting at times, mostly due to the
volume of the snare. Otherwise, there are no real complaints to be made.
Some of the songwriting can be described as, well, less-than-grim. "Remembrance
of a Ruin" was an odd pick to open the album, with the more relaxed pace and the slightly off-putting backing vocals reminiscent
of "Culling Species" from the previous L.P. Things pick up with "The Voice of Our Mythical Past", a faster song with the typical
tremolo picking and memorable melodies that Clandestine Blaze has long been known for. "Circle of Vultures" utilizes more
of this, though interspersed with mellow sections with sort of a plodding double-bass carrying things forward. Both of these
songs feature some of the best riffs on the album, though. "Prelude of Slaughter" is a non-essential track, merely consisting
of some synth and backward vocals, basically an interlude that goes a bit longer than it should.
It leads into the centerpiece of the record, "Return into the City of
Slaughter", which is a lengthy song that sounds like something from Darkthrone's Panzerfaust, offering up a great deal
of Celtic Frost worship. There are brief passages that add a sense of morbidity to the track, as well as sparse use of eerie
background effects. The song is structured well and builds up a sense of tension as it goes along, with even the vocals becoming
more intense. Whereas some of Mikko's forays into Celtic Frost territory have been hit and miss, this time he makes good use
of Tom Warrior's style of riffing, mixing with his own style of songwriting, to create something epic and memorable.
This is followed by the more straightforward and primitive "Archeopsychic
Fear" and "Century of Fire". Both are characterized by grim vocals, somewhat mournful tremolo melodies and fast-paced drums,
though the latter does fall off the rails around the middle. Suddenly, things get rather calm and the drums become a little
overactive, playing some ill-placed catchy beat that is just really off-putting. It reappears a minute or so later, which
is so near to the end of the album as to leave a lasting impression of annoyance, at least to my ears.
Much like New Golgotha Rising, City of Slaughter is a rather
decent record, overall. Despite beginning and ending with the weakest tracks (and the only two that I'd consider to be flawed),
the rest of the material delivers a solid dose of Finnish Black Metal. While not necessarily up to the quality of Harmony
of Struggle, it's certainly worth picking up for fans of Clandestine Blaze.
(4 Mar. 2017)
Tranquility of Death (2018)
the past two decades, Mikko Aspa has proven to be one of the most consistent musicians in the realm of black metal. While
some Clandestine Blaze albums have been better than others, anyone familiar with this project has a good idea of what to expect
whenever a new album emerges. Released in November 2018, Tranquility of Death lives up to and exceeds any expectations
that one could have.
so many bands have come and gone, over the years, experimenting and bastardizing this form of music, Mikko has rarely strayed
from the boundaries of black metal, as established so very long ago by the likes of Darkthrone and Burzum. However, that is
not to say that it is dull and predictable. Despite coming along a decade after this general sound had been created, Mikko
has developed his own unquestionably unique voice, over the years. For how long can primitive tremolo riffs, blasting drums
and harsh vocals still yield anything worthwhile? Hasn't it all been done to death, by now? In the hands of those less skilled,
the answer is yes. Sometimes, I find myself wishing that it would all go away, that people would resign themselves to the
role of fan and listener and stop polluting the scene with pointless noise that adds nothing to the legacy of this music.
And yet the latest release from Finland's Clandestine Blaze proves that all is not lost.
Even the opener, "God on the Cross", conveys more feeling and meaning in
its three and a half minutes than most bands can muster throughout an entire album. A very straightfoward track, it does well
to set the stage for what is to come, imbuing the listener with a sense of unease that is common from Mikko's works. Unlike
many others, he understands nuance and how subtle things can dramatically alter the complexion of a song. It's been satisfying
to witness his development as a musician and to see how his songwriting has improved up to this point. A dynamic song like
"Tragedy of Humanization" would never have lived up to its full potential on an album like Night of the Unholy Flames,
for example. Rather than a collection of disjointed riffs, this track flows from one idea to the next, seamlessly, managing
to create a cohesive whole. The varying paces never seem at odds with each other, and it all works to produce the desired
The production is much more organic than
most modern releases, utilizing both analog and digital recording techniques. The sound is clear enough to pick up on what's
going on, but doesn't sound sterile or fake. Whereas a band like Sargeist is recording on modern equipment and then trying
to make it sound more raw in post-production, Tranquility of Death sounds real. This is a very important factor when
it comes to songwriting that is so genuine and honest. The gloomy atmosphere of songs such as "Blood of the Enlightenment"
would have been killed off with the aforementioned approach in recording. As well, the more mid-paced and old school sounding
section of the song would not have come across as well.
Thankfully, Mikko possesses a deep understanding of this music. From the songwriting to the recording
to the final arrangement of each track, Tranquility of Death demonstrates a great deal of skill and vision. He knew
precisely what he wanted to achieve with this outing. Several of his previous albums featured at least one or two clunkers,
songs that just didn't work all that well and were detrimental to the overall momentum of the albums. This record presents
no such flaws. Much like Harmony of Struggle, everything fits together very well. The compositions are memorable and
well-executed, none more so than the title track. From the Burzum-esque intro to the more intense sections, "Tranquility of
Death" is such a masterfully-crafted song. Mikko has always had a knack for creating something unique within the existing
framework of black metal, but this is truly a monument to everything that he has done. Even the Tom Warrior riffs blend in
and are used well, unlike attempts from years ago. The acoustic bits also add another dimension and help with the absolutely
epic feel of this piece.
lyrics offer a glimpse into the mind of a man that sees the truth of this rotten world. Weakness and decadence have destroyed
the potential of mankind, leaving a pathetic mass of braindead slaves. And yet the final message is one of optimism, a vow
to continue the war against the great lie. Despite the abundance of melancholic and dismal riffs that are found throughout
the album, it is not utterly nihilistic.
Tranquility of Death, easily, stands up to the best albums from Mikko's past, such as Deliverers of Faith
and Harmony of Struggle. While the last couple Clandestine Blaze albums had a few issues and didn't quite live up to
their full potential, this one is definitely essential for any fan of this project. In an age when it often feels like you've
heard it all and most bands are cheap tenth-generation copies of what came before, this is an album that upholds the traditions
of black metal and yet possesses a very distinctive identity of its own. This is highly recommended.
(4 June 2019)
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