When Swedish death metal legends Entombed dropped Clandestine back in 1991, the band had grown leaps and bounds from their debut, the also-awesome Left Hand Path. Look, we love both around Decibel HQ; we inducted LHP into our Hall of Fame an eternity ago, and we recently put Clandestine in its rightful place there as well. The two are amazing for different reasons; while the debut has more death metal heft and pummel, its follow-up has more songwriting smarts, more melody, and more memorable songs.
To celebrate us (finally) putting Clandestine in the hall, here’s our ranking of the album’s songs from worst to best. Spoiler: the main takeaway here is we love every minute of this album.
9. Through the Collonades
I actually do like the atmospheric intro, although the delivery is a bit heavy-handed (subtlety was never really Entombed’s thing); elsewhere, the song does a good job at slowly building into a very heavy closer, with some of the album’s fastest drumming and, overall, a great feeling of dread throughout its five minutes and 39 seconds. Even the wind chimes or whatever that is nearing the end there just sound awesome, and that’s something I never, ever say.
8. Blessed Be
After the relatively mid-tempo “Evilyn,” “Blessed Be” rolls in as the album’s fourth song and picks up the speed again to a more traditional Swedish death tempo and speed. Come chorus time, it’s got another catchy Clandestine vocal line, and the riffs are all blazing, all over the place here. Some samples come in at the right time, and that’s a pretty passionate vocal performance; solid song, not one of the album’s most remarkable, but it still kicks ass.
7. Chaos Breed
A great rager of Swedish death, “Chaos Breed” gets the second half of the album going strong, the song unhinged and ready for trouble through and through. It’s definitely one of the heavier and faster songs on Clandestine, and it proves that even though Entombed was ready to explore more “accessible” terrain on this album (those are pretty heavy quotes there), they could still lay down vicious death metal with the best of them, easy. Love the quick solo that ends it off, too.
6. Severe Burns
One for the old-schoolers here as the band hits song eight on the album, choosing to begin the end with revisiting an old Nihilist tune, “Severe Burns.” Smart move, too: as Clandestine begins to wind down, Entombed aren’t losing steam at all, instead picking up the intensity and the pure, primitive, blinders-on death metal that the newer material, as great as it was, had veered away from slightly.
At 6:13 and track seven of nine, “Crawl” is in many ways Clandestine‘s centerpiece; considering there was a pre-album EP of the same name featuring the track and two others it was also a familiar song by the time the full-length dropped. Which is a bit odd, as it doesn’t have any of the catchy songwriting that came to be a main talking point of Clandestine; rather, the song is a complex and eerie dark Swedish death affair, one that helped give the album atmosphere and added intensity.
Track three on a death metal album is a tough place to be: do you go mid-tempo and give the listener a bit of reprieve, or do you buckle down and go faster and harder? “Evilyn” takes the former route, Entombed getting to a comfortable brisk side of mid-tempo, hinting at the death ‘n’ roll to come in future albums. Cool song that keeps things moving, plus, features the classic line “I was totally fucking breeding,” which was always kinda awesome.
3. Sinners Bleed
The quick break at 0:47 here is one that no one ever really forgot, same with when it repeats at 1:00 with the cymbal hits, Entombed here on the second song on this masterpiece delivering the mid-tempo goods with tons of power, authority, and confidence. Even the mid-song ambient break, a move that rarely works, is totally effective here, the song creating a truly creepy vibe, but without being cheeseball or sacrificing pure catchy death metal songwriting, something Entombed had down pat on Clandestine.
2. Stranger Aeons
Here we have it, a song so incredible it’s only pushed out of the #1 slot by a song even more incredible because holy shit Entombed were on fire in ’91. “Stranger Aeons” is one of those rare almost-anthems of ’91 death metal, the song so catchy and memorable it’s ridiculous; that chorus is one of death metal’s best, and the drumming in this song is top notch. Here, Entombed proved that they were kings of Swedish death and also that they were confident and comfortable enough in what they were doing to try something new, and this song absolutely and totally rules. Plus, the last 15 seconds are just awesome.
1. Living Dead
Now there’s a hell of an album opener, the band raging from approximately the one-second mark with a killer Swedish death metal song that is completely brutal and also completely catchy, the band dropping in a sample at a perfect point to get it firmly entrenched in our heads for the next two decades (“Satan killed him… Satan…”), the cool solo, the double-bass work, it’s all here in what is as good a Swedish death song as any, the band opening the album strong, very strong. Some days “Stranger Aeons” edges into the top spot, but most of the time “Living Dead” sits here loud and proud, Entombed sounding completely and utterly on top of their game on this excellent death metal song, truly a classic in the genre.