(An older review)
1349 are one of the few of the black metal bands of their kind that I can really get into. Hellfire, their newest album is a shining example of what black metal such as theirs should sound like. Relentless constant and never letting up without resorting to being redundant blasting on the drums and horribly produced monotonous guitar work.
Musicianship is of the highest order. Frost's drumming is impeccable. complimenting the music's aggressive attitude yet at times pushing it to a new level which few bands can venture. his stick work is a flurry of abysmal fury rarely seen across any of metal's genres. Archaon and Tjalve's guitar work is clear, crisp, and horrifically genius. Though Seidermann's bass playing is not at the front of the recording it does add some grit and dirty bottom end throughout the album. Ravn's vocals are a fitting end to the talented mix. This is an album which can boast some truly excellent production aside from the lowness of the bass in the mix.
The songwriting on this album is very good. Songs stick out, each holding their own against and not getting lost in the whole. The album employs a wide variety techniques at times including tremolo guitar work, more basic guitar powerchords and rhythms, some death metal influences areas, some thrashy parts, and some atmospheric sections also; its all here and then some. This is an album of songs. Nathicana is a personal favorite however Celestial Deconstruction and From The Deeps also are album highlights for me. To Rottendom is my least favorite song for some reason however that is not saying its not a good song.
The one thing that this album could have used was a little more variety tempo-wise. Its all extremely fast for the entire album with From The Deeps being the one exception and a well placed one on the album due to the fact it breaks up the speed. Perhaps not surprisingly this song also finds its way into the territory of 260+ bpm. Though there is a short clean break that works well aside from it existing for less than three seconds. A longer one may have been better placed but who am I to judge.
Slaves To Slaughter has an interesting musical break about a third of the way in that reeks of decomposed corpses and evil emanating from the very core of the human soul. Then goes off on a black metal journey to hell climaxing in a burzum-esque finale. Also a standout track.
Hellfire is the album's fourteen minute "epic." Though the first three minutes are pretty much buildup with little music except for some funeral-like organ melody. This however transforms - somewhat clumsily in my opinion - into the actual song. Hellfire is pretty much similar to everything else on the album and, for an epic track doesn't quite stand up to what the rest of the album offers before hand. By this time into the album it would have been more rewarding to encounter more doomy tempos and variation. Nine minutes in there is a more Deathspell Omega induced riff that, for me, gives this song some individuality. Thats not to say this isn't a killer ending track which it is. Some fantastic riffs, and brilliant-in-an-Einstein-kind-of-way drumming is, like elsewhere on this album the deciding factor and makes this another great song much like it makes the rest of the songs on the album great songs.
Overall, this is an excellent example of the possibilities that a talented, musicianship-oriented, black metal band can create when done right and done thoughtfully. I would personally consider this their best effort, more natural and flowing than Beyond The Apocalypse and more musical and professional sounding than Liberation. I await great things from 1349's next effort if this is any show of their progression as a black metal band.