1. I Am Abomination 2. Nathicana 3. Sculptor of Flesh 4. Celestial Deconstruction 5. To Rottendom 6. From the Deeps 7. Slaves to Slaughter 8. Hellfire2005 Candlelight Records
by Ash Levitt
With black metal, be it domestic or international, there generally is no middle ground in terms of musical quality; it is either extremely horrible or extremely great. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has heard any breadth of what black metal has to offer. Thankfully, to metal listeners of all kind, 1349 is a band that has continuously fallen into the latter category, and once again bestows on the listener a carefully crafted piece of black art in the form of their newest full-length Hellfire. 1349 once again sets the bar higher for themselves with the release of Hellfire, and for all other black metal acts to follow as well. Named after the year the black plague hit Norway, 1349 is truly an aural assault on the listener. Anyone familiar with this band's previous releases will understand that the group's musicians have as strong a penchant for blazing, speedy thrash as they do traditional black metal. Despite slower, melancholic moments of dark atmosphere and ambience placed here and there, the paramount characteristic of Hellfire is surely speed. Intensity is probably the next best descriptor for what 1349 offers considering that Hellfire, if nothing else, is certainly one of the most furious, ferocious, feral, and absolutely unrelenting albums released in the past year. The blasting, thrash-like qualities of the opening track "I Am Abomination" give an indication of what's to come, and pummels consistently through to the end title track that, while somewhat subdued compared to the rest of the album, is no less dark and haunting. While many releases in all genres of metal can tout intensity, speed, and a particularly desirable harsh abrasiveness, not many of those releases can also claim good songwriting. 1349 has always been able to claim this, and their releases, while varying in production quality, have always been able to back up this songwriting postulation with finely crafted tracks that invoke not just black metal, but various influences into a single piece of art. Upon listening to Hellfire, it is instantly clear to seasoned listeners of all types of metal that considerate thought is poured into the songwriting process. The cold, acrid guitar work, that can at times evince subtle melody and harmonics that get stuck in the listener's head, supported by the nicely changing and phenomenal drumming of Frost (Satyricon), and layered with powerful vocals; the combined work that 1349 displays on Hellfire is definitely a force that demands attention. The release of Hellfire is the perfect follow-up to the previous releases of Liberation and Beyond the Apocalypse, and can only leave the listener begging for more. Bottom Line: If Hellfire is any indication of what can be expected from 1349 in the future, then listeners will surely come to classify the band's work as classics in metal. This is no exaggeration or cliché. 1349 absolutely have what it takes to be remembered as something great and not just a passing fad. Their sound, while being influenced by everything from Slayer to Darkthrone, is still uniquely 1349, and should be remembered as such. If you are a fan of any type of metal, not just black metal, you will without doubt find something in 1349 that brings you back for more.