Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Clandestine Blaze - Fist of the Northern Destroyer (2002)

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 was unquestionable.

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 its purpose.

"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 order.

"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 from believer
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.