Review Summary: A more varied effort than its predecessor and more powerful than any of the bands following efforts, this can definitely stand along side any Death Metal release from the period whilst still remaining relevant today.
This 1991 offering from Stockholm’s Death Metal stalwarts follows hot on the heels of the Bands debut release Left Hand Path, an album often cited as something of a benchmark for Swedish Death Metal. That album was mostly comprised of material from the bands Nihilist days and so Clandestine offered something of a clean slate for Entombed as they sought to record a follow up whilst also recruiting Johnny Dordevic on vocals, stepping in capably to replace Lars Petrov who would return for the bands next release. This album has asserted itself as an important and influential release in its own right, from a time when Death Metal was staring to bed down and establish its place amongst the multitude of genres battling for the discerning listener’s attention.
Clandestine continues in a similar vein to its predecessor, the trademark 'buzzsaw' guitar tone remains and it's the guitars that really steal the show here. Entombed's sound was always very much derived from heavy, uncompromising, yet undoubtedly catchy guitar riffs and this album is no different. The riffing is as impressively catchy as it is relentless, laced with enough melody and dynamic shifts, from gruff breakdowns to rocking head botherers, to keep things interesting throughout. From the trem picked intro to ''Living Dead'' to the chugging riffs in ''Evilyn'' and the quirky melodies in ''Chaos Breed'' there’s an abundance and variety of great riffs on offer in each of the albums 9 tracks. The lead work on the album is also absolutely top notch and, although perhaps not the most technical lead work to be found, the solos are brilliantly constructed and on each occasion actively enhance the music whilst still showcasing enough of Hellid and Cederlunds obvious talents to impress even the most ardent guitar critics out there.
As stand out as the guitar work is, the superb drumming by primary songwriter Nicke Andersson really does get the best out of it, complimenting the guitars in each track whilst at no point attempting to dominate the album. Andersson is aggressive yet considered throughout, whilst adding enough flourishes and fill work to show off his chops without hindering the great flow that the album manages to sustain. The accompanying base work on this record by Lars Rosenberg at no point really stands out but rather rumbles along and anchors the sound effectively whilst never really attempting to draw any attention away from the guitar orientated drive of the bands sound that bury it in the mix.
Into this equation we can add an accomplished vocal performance from Dordevic. The vocals here aren’t a million miles away from Petrov's delivery on the previous album and the front mans absence is never really felt at any stage during the records 43 and abit minute run time which is credit to Dordevic’s efforts. The albums lyrics are delivered with a throaty howl for the most part with a few horror movie esq screams growled out at various intervals to mix things up. Though obviously aggressive, the roared delivery is comprehensible and allows the predictable yet fairly well written lyrical content of the album to be digested by those wishing to do so.
The production work (of Sunlight Studios fame) on Clandestine is also beautifully executed. The wall of sound approach is still pretty raw sounding yet the thick crunchy fuzz of the guitars, though dominant, are never overbearing and each instrument is given enough space to make its presence felt. Despite the live, organic feel of the album this is still a very tightly put together piece of work and retains much of the ominous feel found on Left Hand Path, whilst coming across as a crisper sounding outing than the bands debut and comparing favourably to some of the slightly more under produced efforts from the era.
Even at this stage in their career the 'Death & Roll' sound that Entombed would go on to explore more thoroughly in later releases is clearly evident. The bands groove, however, is teamed seamlessly with the aggression and brutality more often associated with early Death Metal and it’s this combination and the balance of these two elements that really make this record stand out.
If your into early death metal or Swedish death metal in particular then this album is simply a must listen. It does, however, also remain a worthwhile disc for those looking to dip their toe into Death Metal for the first time as it represents a slightly more accessible offering than some of its contemporaries (there are no cookie monster vocals or flat out blast beats to be found) and is a good bridge album for thrash fans in particular, keen to get into the genre.
Entombed would go on to change their sound following this record, and while later albums and indeed the excellent Left Hand Path are worth your time this, in my opinion, is where the band reached its peak, more varied than its predecessor and more powerful than any following efforts, this can definitely stand along side any Death Metal release from the period whilst still remaining relevant today.
Additional info: Rumour has it that the vocals cut on this album were actually done by Andersson himself, although credited otherwise in the albums notes...