Clandestine Blaze - _Night of the Unholy Flames_
(End All Life, 2000)
by: Alvin Wee (7 out of 10)
Already somewhat of a cult in the black metal underground, Finnish Clandestine Blaze return with another full-length in a typically limited vinyl-only release. Talk about old-school! Little more than that can be said music-wise: CB don't deviate much from the standard underground black metal fare. It goes without saying that any given "cult" or "underground" album nowadays plays like a Darkthrone tribute, the only difference being -which- Darkthrone album it sounds like. _NotUF_ pays unashamed homage to _Transylvanian Hunger_ with its under-produced earthiness, never quite achieving the same level of coldness as the original but reaching a commendable level of dark epicness on tracks like "Chambers". The grinding rawness of "Cross of Black Steel" brings out the best in the uncompromising lyrics, which in any other context might seem somewhat contrived. It's been a while since any band ever matched such vitriolic texts with adequately forceful music and the lads at CB obviously have the technique honed to perfection. That said, most non-fanatical listeners might find the monotony of the music off-putting, and would attribute the simplicity of the typical riffing to a lack of ability rather than a conscious effort at simplicity. Nevertheless, the overall effect of the album is impressive, shrouding the listener in a veil of utter blackness and primal melodies, epic at times, crushing at others, swirling in a chaotic dark. Somehow, music like this can seldom be raved about in concrete terms, but should rather be quietly applauded for its insidious, primitive evil. All in all, _NotUF_ never once strikes me as being absolutely essential, but fans of the style will already have made up their minds not to miss out on this cult piece. End All Life has put out more brilliant stuff in the past -- Warloghe, Mutiilation --, but the appeal of this one to stalwarts of the underground is obvious. $18 from the label and be fast: 333 numbered copies only.

Contact: End All Life, B.P. 4, 86 281 St. Benoit Cedex, France

(article published 20/11/2000)

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