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Who are you and what have you done with 1349? - 60%

MikeyC, June 13th, 2009

When I heard about the new 1349 album Revelations Of The Black Flame, I must admit I was excited. After bringing out three albums in three years, which include the incredible Hellfire, I couldn’t wait for them to unveil what they had achieved after four years away from the limelight. In fact, I was that excited, I ended up pre-ordering it almost immediately.

After I pre-ordered it, the feedback started coming through as to how bland and completely separate this was to Hellfire. With negative after negative feedbacks taking place, I must say I was worried. Surely it couldn’t be that bad, right? I eventually got my copy in the mail, and decided to see what all the bad press was about.

I can only assume that 1349 thought they were a love child of Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord during the recording of this album. That’s my best explanation for the abundance of ambience and interludes that pepper the black metal material here. It goes without saying that for those, including me, who were expecting something similar to Hellfire are sure to be disappointed entirely. This is a complete 180-degree change for these guys.

But hold on! Not all is lost here. The opener “Invocation” is actually very enjoyable, despite the 6-and-a-half minutes being taken up by around 4 minutes of ambience. The album kicks off with a bunch of echoed shrieking, then a little section of ambience before the drums fade in. I will still claim this introduction as one of my favourite sections here. The rest of the song isn’t too bad, either, but you will notice how much slower this is to anything on Hellfire. Next track, “Serpentine Sibilance,” is perhaps one of my favourites here. The final minute is easily the fastest section of Revelations Of The Black Flame, which gives listeners a glimpse of what 1349 are definitely capable of. It gives the song a lot more energy than it otherwise wouldn’t have boasted. “Maggot Fetus” isn’t such a bad song, either. The main riff has a slight black’n’roll edge to it, accentuated by the drumming.

The production is quite muddy, but to be fair, it perhaps suits this sort of black metal more than the extreme blasting heard on Hellfire. If this sort of production was on that album, I doubt I could even get past a few tracks, because the most important element of the album, the intense drumming, would be lost under a murky sea of guitars and bass. Here, though, it seems to work okay, even for the rare fast parts, such as “Serpentine Sibilance,” but it’s more advantageous during the ambient sections.

Speaking of which, that is the reason most fans are screaming. Ambience takes up three whole songs here – “Horns,” “Misanthropy,” and “Solitude,” plus the bulk of “Invocation.” I can’t say I don’t like ambience in metal, because I think it can work well. Unfortunately, here, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. “Misanthropy” is not very good, consisting of a piano piece that, if any more off-key, would have me skipping it completely. “Horns” isn’t bad, but I feel like it’s just sitting there – the song doesn’t segue into the next one, nor is it led in by the previous one, so I feel like it was put there to add to the running time and track length. The songs themselves contain ambience within themselves, like the aforementioned “Invocation,” so the whole album is basically soaked in it.

One of the biggest disappointments here would be the performance of Frost. He traded his blasting fury for the simplest of beats (again, with the exception of the ending to “Serpentine Sibilance”). A constant flurry of double kick and snare drum insanity wouldn’t work with the style they’ve created, but I feel like he could’ve done more. His drumming on “At The Gates…” is so minimalist, it’s a wonder he even turned up to the recording studio (although, I guess I could say the same thing about Archaon on “Set The Controls To The Heart Of The Sun”). Everybody knows what Frost can accomplish, so it just seems like his overwhelming talents are wasted here.

I guess there’s not a lot more I could say about this album now. Everything after “Maggot Fetus” is very slow, which isn’t a bad thing, but unfortunately, it contains the poor “Misanthropy,” and the album closes with “At The Gates…,” which sounds like a much more boring version of a good Thorns song. Revelations Of The Black Flame is not as bad an effort as others have been making out, as there are some good songs here, but I would stick with Hellfire, and cross your fingers that 1349 can reproduce the chaos they so expertly crafted there. I’d suggest getting the new Anaal Nathrakh, Ad Hominem, or wait for the new Thorns album, and give this a miss.