Album Review: ENTOMBED - Clandestine Live
According to the loudmouth behind these words, Entombed’s first four albums are un-fuck-with-able. Each of Left Hand Path, Clandestine, Wolverine Blues and To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth are singular displays of grade ‘A’ death metal/death ‘n’ roll, trailblazing works and different enough from one another so that their legacy allowed for Same Difference to even exist, for the band to return from that mess and for people to give one ounce of concern to Entombed A.D.
To that mind, any of those records could have been given the anniversary celebration/treatment Clandestine was on the receiving end of back in 2016. It was then that the Malmö Symphony Orchestra and Choir, conducted and arranged by Thomas von Wachenfeldt, performed the second album by the band that's become synonymous with Swedish death metal. That was followed up by 3/5ths of the original lineup performing the album from front-to-back at the Malmö Live Concert Hall. An initial recording – both audio and video – was originally issued in 2017 via the band’s own Threeman Recordings. Now, Sound Pollution has taken the band’s – with vocalist Robert Andersson and bassist Edvin Aftonfalk, both ex-Morbus Chron, joining guitarists Alex Hellid and Uffe Cederlund and drummer Nicke Andersson – most recent and hi-fallutin’ rendering of the album for a standalone release.
You all know – or should know – Clandestine, if not for it being a superior moment of death metal’s timeline, but also for the less-than-ideal conditions under which it was created (example: singer quits, drummer sings, band credits guy who didn’t sing on the album as lead vocalist, etc.). It’s always a miracle when such awesome and timeless works emerge from chaos and maybe that’s part of the reason Clandestine was chosen for a then-25th birthday salutation. The trouble is with this whole thing is that Clandestine Live in this form is an adequate but inessential addition to the band's discography.
The band plays the album, which would be great if you’ve never heard it previously and the original studio version wasn’t about as close to perfection as you’ll ever find. The arrangements are held onto faithfully, the sound (including that oft-aped buzzsaw guitar tone) is pristine for a live recording and the songs (as you know, or should know) are some of the best the death metal genre has to its name. It’s especially engaging given Entombed live sightings are a rarity, especially on this side of the drink and more so since their appearance at MDF back in 2010 was lackluster, to say the least.
However, as great as the sound and songs are, having Robert Andersson front the band with his tuneless howl reverberating off the high ceilings and scientifically measured acoustics of a real concert hall quickly turns good chunks of songs in which vocal power is paramount into an exercise approaching disappointment. “Living Dead,” “Sinners Bleed,” “Stranger Aeons” and, most noticeably, “Blessed Be” have muscular edges subtracted as the incorrect Andersson takes the mic. But not all blame falls in the lap of the new guy; there are a fair number of moments in which Hellid and Cederlund bust out with solos that don’t entirely stick to the originals. This is fine, but holy jumpin' there are moments where they veer off-key drastically, conspicuously and painfully.
If you’re an Entombed completist – like the person still tracking down a copy of the Monkey Puss (Live in London) VHS – there’s stuff here you’ll likely appreciate. The cover art interpretation of Dan Seagrave’s original artwork combined with the nature of the event itself is awesome. And still, it’s Entombed cranking out a version of a stone-cold classic, to which such a polite applause response might seem kind of shocking. Remember though, there were opera house regulars picking at their monocles sitting alongside rowdy, Arboga-slugging headbangers, which is why the video footage of this event is probably far more interesting than the audio.