Thursday, February 3, 2011


Having to live in the shadow of another band you're in must be terribly difficult, especially when the other band garners ridiculous amounts of critical acclaim. Clandestine Blaze is the more personal project of Deathspell Omega vocalist Mikko Aspa and is worlds away from the blackened prog insanity of Deathpell's existential religious inquiries. Clandestine Blaze also dates back much further, boasting a ridiculous discography and a number of excellent compilation appearances, mostly curated by Mikko himself for his outstanding Northern Heritage label. The label name is as good a summation as any for what Clandestine Blaze have been trying to accomplish across their low profile existence-crude and simplistic black metal heavily indebted to Darkthrone and ideologically aligned with the nationalism of Burzum or Nargaroth.
Clandestine Blaze's albums have always been about half and half for me-on every record you're going to get about four great songs and four subpar pieces of filler. I'm usually okay with that ratio because when Mikko's on he's fucking on, tempering fury with melody for maximum efficacy and righteous headbanging rock and roll action (seriously, some of Clandestine Blaze's stuff is incredibly anthemic-just check out 2004's "Deliverers of Faith".) Unfortunately the reverse is unavoidably true as well-the filler material is pretty fucking awful which makes me all the sadder to report that "Falling Monuments" is probably the weakest effort i've heard from this project in about a decade. There are maybe five good riffs spread across the album's 42 minute runtime and it makes you wade through some serious songwriting muck and self indulgent abstractionism to find them. The worst parts are Mikko's attempts at slowing things down, using chromatic bludgeoning power chord riffs that would make Tony Iommi vomit all over his SG. It's just laughable and i struggle to find any sort of explanation as to how the quality could veer so far into the black. Maybe it's the compositional intensity that Deathspell Omega demands from all of its members, maybe it's that Mikko's just spread himself way too thin these days (playing in nine different bands is going to stretch anyone's creativity) or maybe it's just that Clandestine Blaze has run out of ways to say they're proud of being Finnish in any sort of meaningful manner. Either way, this is completely subpar and best avoided.

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