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In spite of the programmatic slogan on the album’s back cover proudly declaring that “1349 is aural hellfire”, the music on this Norwegian outfit’s fifth full-length is far more structured than the image of sheer, unadulterated chaos evoked by this bold statement. At the same time, it can’t be argued that 1349, this “star”-studded ensemble of Norwegian black metal villains, present quite a challenge for all those with only a fleeting interest in this extreme heavy metal subgenre: the music on “Demonoir” is indeed light years away from other, more accessible black metal bands, let alone the Dimmu Borgirs and Cradle of Filths of this world. There is no denying 1349 take a far more elitist approach to black metal, one not primarily characterized by ostensible melodies and pseudo-symphonic elements, but rather by an uncompromising, visceral assault that is a lot more extreme and takes a lot more time to really sink in.
1349 appear to be heavily influenced by some of the stalwarts of the so-called second wave of black metal originating in the early 1990s, with bands like fellow Norwegians Darkthrone immediately coming to mind. However, despite some very obvious parallels, namely the harsh and somewhat primal approach that eschews keyboards or any overtly accessible elements in favor of capturing the raw essence of the “true” black metal spirit, their music is also quite different from what you can hear on “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” or “Transilvanian Hunger”. It’s even more extreme, obviously, but it’s also less simplistic and, yes, more chaotic, an impression aided by the abundant use of blast beats and abrupt tempo changes on “Demonoir”. The songs here are mostly quite long and rather complex: in some ways, this is truly progressive music, albeit not in the bombastic, pompous sense this label is often falsely associated with. The downside to that is that “Demonoir” doesn’t exactly make for easy listening. On the contrary, it requires the listener to be in a certain mood and to make a rather conscious effort to adjust and become acclimated to the brutal assault he is in for. Once he has managed to do so, however, he is rewarded with a listening experience that conveys the true, “ugly” essence of black metal better than most albums.
Another marked difference to the low-fi likes of Darkthrone lies in the production department, where everything sounds surprisingly crisp and clear but luckily never too polished. One thing you can count on with a band comprised of such accomplished and experienced musicians is that the instrumental delivery is flawless and occasionally even spectacular. Needless to say, it is drummer Frost who steals the show in that regard: the man is a true beast behind his drum kit.
In closing, while “Demonoir” is essentially an album for dedicated genre loyalists and will provide neither instant nor belated gratification for those simply looking for a quick black metal fix, it should prove quite rewarding to those hard-boiled enough to withstand the brutal aural assault and patient enough to discover the deceivingly well thought-out compositions hiding, as it were, behind the frantic wall of sound that will overwhelm the more casual consumer.
Choicest cuts: This is clearly not as much an assortment of individual songs as it is an album meant to be experienced as a whole and in one piece (the short interludes in between songs certainly add to this). It is therefore not easy and also a bit pointless to pick any individual favorites, but the tracks that are best equipped to stand on their own would probably be “When I Was Flesh”, “Pandemonium War Bells” and “The Devil of the Desert”.
Perhaps the truest remaining purveyors today of the original rebellious Norwegian black metal spirit, 1349 have always had an element of the oddball about them, a facet which makes them thoroughly enterprising to listen to as source of blackened delight. "Demonoir" was a 2010 release but this box set reissue was released at the tail-end of 2011 with a selection of live and cover tracks tacked on to the end. As ever we are here for the original recording though and a very different beast it is to the last time I reviewed them on 2009's "Revelations of the Black Flame".
With each 'proper' track interspersed by short atmospheric interludes (entitled "Tunnel Of Set - I" and so on), their hypnotic speed appears amplified and increased as it seems the bowels of hell are emptied on your poor ears when attempting to progress through the record's 49 minutes. The mid-way point through "Atomic Chapel" sets the precedence when it bursts from a chamber of mid-paced chords and piano into a seething cauldron of blastbeats and super-charged riffs. Through "When I Was Flesh" (a track qualified to enter the 100m Olympics sprint final), "Psalm 7:77" and "Pandemonium War Bells" the true spirit of 1349 is unearthed as Ravn lets forth a deep croak and Frost hammers incessantly his kit in support of Archaon and Seidemann's strings. There is little in the way of diversity once 1349 let loose as they do through these but the industrial harshness of the riffs spat out from the furnace are a lesson in black metal nihilism and a necessary catch point separated from the mechanical pummelling being produced by Frost.
The brooding atmospheric pieces in contrast provide welcome respite and in their darkly majesty offer more than just simple diversity for the sake of it (a trap often capturing many extreme metal bands). The title-track as the last track proper stands alone as a modestly-paced traveller amongst the sea of carnage in which it sits and what is a gentle closure to an album that has simply battered and blasted it's way through.
Covers of Morbid Angel, Exodus, Bauhaus and Possessed plus three live versions of "Demonoir" tracks make up the bonus section on what is not only a much healthier and positive release than 2009's but one of the most vicious BM records reviewed on here in some time. Mind the health warning though: it's repetitive hyper-speed attack is not for the initiated however...
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
Whether it suffered from the symptoms of crass experimentation, utter laziness or the disinterested filling out of a record contract, 1349's prior album Revelations of the Black Flame was a sorely received disappointment, and for a good reason: it fell on its face very swiftly, a myopic miasma of ennui that was nowhere near as creative or interesting as its creators might have wished. In fact, I believe it was the single biggest disappointment of last year, hurling the band from the heights they achieved with their initial trilogy of surging, blast off epics into the latrine of despair. The early buzz on its follow-up, Demonoir, was that the album would be some grand return to form, some compensation or dispensation of that numbing atrocity.
I'd be lying to say that this is successful in any such venture, because for much of its playtime, Demonoir is nearly as jaded and disposable as its predecessor. Of the 13 tracks, more than half are intro and interlude pieces, ranging from about :40 to 4 minutes, known as the "Tunnel of Set" sequence. I have no adversity to such a tactic, of course, many great albums have mixed shorter segues with the meat of the metal. Unfortunately, most of these pieces are outright worthless ambient excrement that doesn't even thrill from a haunting angle. The only exceptions would be "Tunnel of Set III", an acoustic dusting that seems as if it might develop something interesting if it weren't cleaved off by "Psalm 777". The closer, "Tunnel of Set VII" is perhaps the best of the ambient filler, with some distant, brooding tones that slightly titillate.
So the 'meat' itself consists of only six tracks, and these are of greatly varying quality. "Atomic Chapel" plods along, a writhing serpent of melodic sheen that devolves into the pandering gait of blasphemy and atmosphere. I like the use of pianos in the bridge, and the riffs do build up to the thundered pace of older albums, but the configurations of notes are rarely effective. "When I Was Flesh" and "Psalm 777" are more direct returns to the band's climactic past, with bombastic structures that channel filth and hostility, but of these, I could count only a few worthwhile riffs, like the choppy, late bridge of "Psalm 777" which swerves into a razor-like discourse. The next track, "Pandemonium War Bells", is honestly pretty good, with a mystical and arabesque motif accumulation that engages the attention. This is maintained through "The Devil of the Desert", but it sadly transforms back into sodding, forgettable and typical blasting. "Demonoir" functions due to its grooving and atmosphere, but it quickly evaporates from the memory despite the rampant howling of the climax.
Demonoir is unquestionably superior to Revelations of the Black Flame, because to some extent, the band's manic energies have once again asserted themselves. It still favors that grimy encrusted production, a much more raw and organic mix than the band have used in the past, which often serves the compositional elements. However, where the album does manage to bore itself into your conscience with its tendrils of despotic savagery, it simply fails to strike the balance of ripping guitars and unchecked aggression of Beyond the Apocalypse or Hellfire. This is an average offering from a collective of individuals capable of so much more, and no amount of conceptual tinkering, lyrical snap (the lyrics are admittedly quite good) or guest musicians can save it from the abyss it so stridently lauds.
The reviews on this seem to be polarizing. It's either the greatest thing they've ever done or underwhelming. I believe the negative reviews are leftovers from their prior release 'Revelations Of The Black Flame' (cool title and artwork, but that's about it), some can't get over it and it's been just around a year that it came out so the wounds are still fresh in people's minds. The overtly positive reviews almost sound like super-excited fans that their old sound is back.
I've had this album since it came out and I've been listening to it and sitting on this review for awhile now. I wanted to see how well it has "aged". I know I can get caught up in the excitement of a new release and be pleased upon first listen that I want to sing praise right away here. But I can say with the utmost confidence that 'Demonoir' is a very good album. THE proper follow up to 'Hellfire', no doubt whatsoever. The band is working on all cylinders here. Of that I will not deny them.
Now for the music. It's an interesting idea to have these "Tunnel Of Set" interludes in between songs. While I don't necessarily have a problem with that idea, of the 7 'Tunnel Of Sets', 2 or 3 (Tunnel Of Set 3, 4 & 7) of them are good enough to listen to without skipping to the actual tracks on 'Demonoir'. Now why do I mention this? Well of the "13 tracks" 7 of them are interludes and just 6 are actual full length songs. I don't even count the final TOS (at over 3 minutes) an actual song IMO. So this takes points off for me in a big way and really the only reason(s) this album isn't a 90 or higher. With the age of iPod's and stuff, you can edit the album to it's 6 actual proper tracks on your mp3 player and make that your album. So I win there!
But 6? Is that it? Well yeah, but the quality of those tracks are what make this album a very good one. The intensity, the drums (oh the drums) and the riffs are back. While I don't care much for the guitarist, admittedly he DOES have his own sound, similar to the Euronymous style of riffing he goes further with it and evolved the "sound" of it. You need to hear 'Beyond The Apocalypse' and 'Hellfire' to fully understand what I'm saying here. But it's there and he has it, no doubt. I've seen these guys twice now, it could have been 3, but I chose Slayer over them (and ALWAYS WOULD) when they both were billed at the same exact time at this years (2010) Wacken Open Air Festival. They are very good live and Ravn's presence on stage reminds me of Dead from Mayhem. Come to think of it, these guys definitely have an "old, early Mayhem" feel about them.
As for the "real" songs on this album, 'Atomic Chapel' begins with Ravn "sighing" or taking a deep breath before the riffs set in. It's a great way to begin the album and to let the people know they're back to what they do best. It's a wonderful track, but not my most favorite, that would be reserved for 'The Devil Of The Deserts'. The track ventures off from the typical "1349 sound" in the black metal sense, it's fast, yes, but it goes through tempo changes without losing speed or ferocity. And the thrashy riff in the middle of the song is killer, absolutely killer. It's the best part of the best song on the album, it stays in your head and it's not something they've really done on prior releases. There's an idea for them to think about if they ever want to vary their sound from the "typical black metal" riffing. Try some thrash in there as well. It had a positive sound for them and if they want to go ahead with that I'll be more than happy to take the credit for it. :-)
'When I Was Flesh' is a very, very close second for best track here, Ravn's the highlight of this one for me and while most will mention Frost's drumming or Archaon's riffing, Ravn to me is so vital to how good 1349 are. He's one of the best, (I mean this) black metal vocalists in the business today. He doesn't have that annoying shriek like so many do, his voice sounds just right, angry, the right amount of tone where he doesn't make you think "the music's great, but the voice, ugh!" He's really good. He never disappoints.
All in all, 'Demonoir' is a step in the right direction and saved their career, now we can forgive them for releasing "Revelations...' and forget about it as well. Every band is allowed to mess up, just don't do it often. 'Demonoir' shows 1349 at what they do best. My only and biggest complaint are the "Tunnel Of Set' interludes and the quantity of them here, way too many. 2 or 3 of them would have been perfect and perhaps one extra "track", perhaps the cover of Morbid Angel's 'Rapture' would have sealed the deal for me and given this a 95 at least. While not a classic, (none of their albums are IMO) this is really good and a step in the right direction.
1349 is a band that any black metal enthusiast has heard, most likely enjoyed, has a CD of and has gotten bored with. To start 1349 are not a great band, nor are they bad. They're really mediocre and even more boring than anything. I have been listening to black metal since I was a teenager, and 1349 was one of the first bands I got into. That's really all they're good for - getting angsty teens to listen to their music. They're the Slipknot of black metal. That being said, 1349's only good release was Hellfire. The release was solid, tight end, in your face black metal at it's finest. I find myself listening to it every once in a while and it's really just a fun listen more than anything.
Demonoir is a release that, to me, seems to be a bit of an overuse of the blast beat. Many bands do it, but mostly deathcore or metalcore. All I heard in the record was that frost was going at a steady 260 - 300 bpm rate. I couldn't hear much else. It was a huge annoyance. Now mind you, I prefer this to the release that came right before this (which was an astronomical shit upon black metal), Revolutions of the Black Flame, but that's not saying much. 1349 have not really changed that much. Ravn is still being a screechy cat, Frost is still being a drummer obsessed with his own speed. This band is really just an extension of Funeral and early Satyricon.
Guitar was stereotypical in this record. Either it focused on the chugga chugga riffs or the really fast paced, whiny black metal tremolo picking. It was just boring. For being a band that Tom Gabriel Warrior backs up, it's pathetic. I don't even know why he does to be honest. The bass is unheard of, hell its hard to even say they have a bassist. I looked into their songs and all the bassist does is sit back and play the same notes over and over the whole song in a really quiet fashion. Another stereotypical black metal thing this record hits on...
Another thing that pisses me off about this record is all the ambient tracks in it. Does every track REALLY need an intro? Of course not. That's an absurdity in music. It's just as bad as Nostradamus (Judas Priest, 2006). I can't really say that this record made me sit back and go "wow, that was great", nor can I say it made me retch for being so bad. All you can really do for this album is pass it up. It's an album on the lower side of black metal. Hell almost half the 1349 ones are. If you want a good black metal band that's still astounding in it's music go to Marduk or Urgehal. Both of the bands are basically the same principal in the music, been around longer, still kick ass. As I sit here, finishing off my pack of smokes, I just came to realize something. This release should have been 100% ambient. I mean at least the ambient pieces were good, but there were too many. If it was just an ambient piece (something like Ildjarn did) I'd be astounded, but this...this is boring.
Highlights: all the ambient pieces, none of the metal.
With their critically acclaimed album, “Hellfire”, we hear 1349 play one of the most wretched modern black metal albums known to man, so it was quite a shame for many that the same band would create another album, “Revelations of the Black Flame” 4 years later. After less than a year, a 1349 comeback, “Demonoir” has been cast down for retribution.
Thankfully, the production doesn’t sound fuzzy (i.e. bedroom-made black metal). Also, the songs had the drums and the vocals being the most heard instrument, although the riffs still are audible throughout the album. The riffs are black metal riffs, only a little bit experimental. The vocals are a tad too deep for a rasp, but I think its deepness made it very interesting. The drum beats are usually super fast, and it always fits the music’s mood. Meanwhile, the music and its atmosphere are generally very dark, though not very pummeling, with a sinister feeling throughout the album. Lastly, the album has a somewhat weird feeling. Is it because that the album has 7 instrumentals in between?
Both “atomic Chapel” and “When I Was Flesh” sound mysteriously weird. Both songs’ intros are generally explosive but the rest of those songs (after their intros) will put you in an enigmatic trance, with frantic parts, atmospheric parts, and whatever may. “Psalm 7:77” warms up on its intro, then there begins some minimalist (never to mention, furious) riffs and blast beats, never to mention the song’s excellent thrash-style solo (although the solo doesn’t sound clean). “Pandemonium War Bells” is another mysterious sounding song, though not as weird as the second and the fourth track. One thing about this song is that its tempo slows down gradually, though it speeds up a little near its end.
The fact that the album has 7 instrumentals may not appeal to black metal fans. Although a few instrumentals may make the album, the 7 instrumentals kill the atmosphere brought by the song prior to the instrumental. Another thing is that the riffs are more or less not memorable, although some riffs are clearly derived from other riffs which are present in the same album, making “Demonoir” sound repetitive.
Despite all that, the album is still worth a listen. Though not an excellent album, “Demonoir” still has its highlights and moments. If you’re looking for some furious black metal with a little twist, you better try this one!
Originally made for http://mystifymyserie.blogspot.com
After being appalled by (at first) and enamored of (eventually) 1349's first effort in four long years, Revelations Of The Black Flame, I was sure, taking into account the drastic change in their music (which would ultimately explain the four-year-long silence), I would not hear from them again in some, oh, I don't know, four years or so. Predictably, I lost my shit when I read they were working on a new album which would be out in less than a year. When something like this happens, there are very few paths through which the situation can flow: Either they'll release a very similar album, meaning they recorded both roughly at the same time and they work as a Part I - Part II sort of deal, or they can immediately go back to their previous sound, playing the whole thing off as a very adolescent rebellious experiment. There's also a third, and rare, variant.
Lucky for me, they took the third path.
What we have here, basically, is the best of both worlds. It would seem they had it all under control; they'd release a monster of an experimental album and wait attentively for feedback, and predicting the album would receive completely mixed responses, they'd immediately release an album that could appeal to those who responded well to the experimental aspects, and those who prefer the old 1349 alike.
The sound and mix quality is an almost perfect balance between the damp and stinky basement that was the previous album and the solid, crystal clear production of Hellfire. The production is sharp enough that the tone of the guitars represent a certain blow to the listener, and at the same time they're muddy enough to leave a trail of blurry tones and echoing textures which give a very deep vibe and life (in a very dark sense of the word) to the music.
I can listen to the bass clearly, which is ALWAYS a plus in this genre, and it's even more fascinating to find that it doesn't just blindly (and dully) follow the guitars. I liked the wide sound and low pitch of the drums in their previous effort, but I find the dry and thick sound they present on this album works much, much better, since it doesn't interfere with the sound waves of the guitars, something that happened quite often on Revelations (which, I repeat, I liked). They seem to be a bit short on the cymbal department, but it's perfectly fine with me. They, too, tend to saturate the sound when they're over used.
Melody, in its technical and neat use of baroque-esque scales and depth, is reminiscent of their earlier works, but is oriented towards a more emotional, maybe even romantic optic, which has more to do with their previous album than with anything else they've done. Dissonant, dark riffs once again reminiscent of Mayhem's Ordo Ad Chao (which I tend to believe was an inspiration of sorts for their previous album, but that's just conjectures of mine) mixed with the beauty of the more minimalistic and chaotic moments of Hellfire (more specifically the song Hellfire) work together with a certain latter-day-Celtic-Frost/Triptykon influence to create a huge, angsty and powerful monster of an album.
There's even more variation and experimentation than that present on Revelations, but in a much more accessible way (that's not to say it's an easy listening experience, but it's much more clear, and every element of the music is well represented). This is a huge factor to take in count, since although the influences in sound brought forth by mighty Tom Gabriel Fischer are more dim, they're more throughout. I can sense a strong Monotheist-esque aesthetic in the overall feel of most songs, a very heavy and dark feeling akin to that album. This way we get 1349's trademark riffing mixed with well spread minimalistic chugging, eerie ambient elements mixed with a very vivid pace, gorgeous experiments in the vocal department (like that droning, low vocal part on Atomic Chapel), not to mention the use of a piano and horns, and the mixture of an almost constant change in pace, use of thick and strange noises and gnostic lyrics which remind me strongly of Tom G, and some of Deathspell Omega's most brilliant outputs.
The seven interludes, titled Tunnel Of Set I, II, et al, are spread evenly across the album, one as the opener, and a subsequent one after every metal track. This might sound obnoxious (counterproductive, even), but they fail to be an annoyance or even an inconvenient pause which might ruin the flow of the album. The fact that they're quite short (except the closer), something that could have helped Revelations[...] a great deal, is probably their main saving point. With that in mind, they work less as interludes and more as droning pauses which give the listener a very limited time to reflect on what just happened and prepare for the forthcoming assault. They add to the strong sense of suspense the album holds, which might go unappreciated on a first listen. And, really, as individual pieces of music, they're highly fascinating, each pushing the creepy factor to a higher level.
So, to bring this to a close, this album is full of opportunities and has a chance of being liked by both sides of the completely divided spectrum of 1349's followers. There's more than enough aggression to make any fan of Liberation happy, and yet it's just as controversial, experimental and dark to appeal to people like me, who saw something new, exciting and compelling in Revelations Of The Black Flame. But all comparisons aside, this album stands on its own as a revolutionary (as revolutionary as one can get in a genre as tired as black metal), unique, and most importantly, interesting collection of music. And nowadays, in a world where everything from music to movies, from politicians to personalities, is more often than not a sad and tired, recycled and plain shitter version of stuff that's been done before and better a thousand times, that should be the main thing to look for, at the end of the day.
Having been only 15 months after the ill-received "Revelations of the Black Flame" was released, one might be skeptical that 1349 would have it in them to deliver a quality record. While this skepticism does not go unwarranted it is also not completely justified. Upon the first listen, it is quite evident that the band has really dug deep to get back some of the aggression of their earlier works and for the most part have succeeded in doing so. However, not all the elements of their previous album have been discarded, and let's face it, it would be kinda boring if they had.
"Atomic Chapel", the first proper song on the CD, starts things off on a very bombastic note. The song is very diverse and has this subtle and eerie piano part that gives me chills every time i hear it. The next couple tracks unfortunately don't quite measure up to this song. While chock full of face-meltingly technical riffs there is just not much there to keep me interested. The album doesn't really start to rebound until "Pandemonium War Bells", but continues to get better from that point on making the last half of the CD much more solid and enjoyable than the first.
With all things considered, "Demonoir" is not a bad album. It is definitely not an album to disappoint those who missed the tremelo-picked fury of CDs like "Hellfire" or "Liberation". My only complaint is that there is a scarcity of memorable moments like those that made the earlier records so great. If they could just focus on writing some more riffs that really stick with ya after the music ends then i think 1349 would be back on top of their game.