Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Clandestine Blaze - Below the Surface of Cold Earth (2002)

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.