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From experiences with 1349's previous album "Hellfire", I was expecting "Revelations Of The Black Flame" to be another blast from hell, fired across the galaxy at 1000mph, but instead I have the pleasure of closing the triumvirate with a third album of atmospheric black metal, by far my preference over said albums of incessant speed and brutality. Having always featured the clichéd corpsepaint and spikes look, 1349 hone the BM look to the tee and so the hyperblast was expected, but with this change to doomier territories all seems set to change. All except the corpsepaint though I read (maybe next time).
The contradiction between "Hellfire" and "Revelations..." is quite spectacular. Where once the blastbeat of Frost (he of Satyricon) reigned supreme and spiked riffs rained down from the heavens (or rose up from hell?), all that is a distant memory now that the legendary Tom G. Warrior has manned the mixing desk as the influence of Celtic Frost's finale, the slow dirge that was "Monotheist", and the industrial element of Satyricon also, are in charge here. But even that doesn't tell the full story - there are a couple of occasions like in "Invocation" and "Serpentine Sibilance" where it sounds as if all hell is about to break loose, but for whatever reason 1349 sound almost afraid of doing so. A God of extreme metal he may be but has Mr. Warrior influenced these Norwegians that much?
Even a cursory listen of "Revelations" will reveal that there is more time spent in the world of dank, dark ambient than time spent listening to 'riffs'. "Horns", "Solitude", "At The Gate...", "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" (an interesting Pink Floyd cover) and "Uncreation" all roughly follow such a template, where Ravn's Satyr-like croak may oft be conspicuous by it's absence but not half as much as any biting guitars or Frost's universally regarded drumming prowess. In the rare instances of more standard templates ("Maggot Fetus... Teeth Like Thorns") the pace and feel is good and the moment enjoyable, even if the riffs are a touch lost in the mix behind the vocals and drums. But be fooled not, I am astounded to be talking about such rare instances of a release by 1349 of all bands because this is followed by a long piano-led mourn, known here as "Misanthropy" which dies, like so many other songs, but it seems to get going.
Before I tie it all up, one important question must be answered: do all these changes work? Fearing that future listens and greater time could make me regret this I am still inclined to say that it doesn't. For most people. As a doom fanatic and with an interest in bands willing to deviate from a standard template, "Revelations..." is an album I can and will quite enjoy as I've long known the best black metal is not served too fast for human consumption, and as such the slow monotonous pace absorbs me. However, I don't expect most to have the patience for an entire album of tracks that would have previously acted as buffers on 1349 albums, and that most likely album no.5 will see 1349 pick things up again. A true experiment that will undoubtedly be divisive in the black metal fraternity.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net.