without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
1349 are a band of little surprise. Or at least it’s been that way until now. After a totally raw, top quality Norwegian black metal displayed on 2003’s “Liberation”, their seminal album, “Beyond The Apocalypse”, followed in 2004. Hardworking as they were, 2005 saw the release of “Hellfire”, no less powerful than its predecessor. With such a good back catalogue, I was pretty much using every chance I got to hype this band, since I really believe that their sophomore album makes it into all-time top 10 black metal albums any day of the week, with the other ones following quite closely. The band started touring, touring, touring, and then, Tjalve, their guitarist, left. No room for any fuss was left, as everything happened amicably and on good terms. However, people knew that he was the riff-maker that made 1349 such a damn good band, and that would be enough to get any fan concerned. They were always describing themselves as the ones “keeping the spirit of the 2nd wave of black metal alive”, which was true. Until now.
It’s been four long years of waiting for this album, and I’m indescribably sorry to say that it pretty much failed everywhere. First of all, any expectations you might have of a 1349 album have to be dropped instantly. Even though it might not seem so at first glance, as the sinister screaming sounds of “Invocation” grow on you, following into “The Serpentine Sibilance”, this can’t really be considered a black metal album. Apart from the aforementioned “The Serpentine Sibilance”, which is a bit on the slow side, and the only typically great (not excellent) 1349 song on the album, “Maggot Fetus”, there is not a single by-the-book black metal track. The rest is a combination of dark ambient, instrumental and black metal elements, most of which are mediocre at best. Such elements are understandable on a black metal album, desirable even, but not when they take up 80% of the running time and not when they sound this drawn out and redundant. While I do understand the band’s need to progress stylistically and musically, I don’t really like when it sounds as forced as it does here, and I certainly don’t like the fact that it’s 1349 that’s changed. It really seems as if someone was thinking “Why don’t we become a black metal version of Sunn O))) on the next album?” I am just a fan and have no right to dispute the band’s wish to change in any way, but it’s also up to me to decide whether the end result is good – and it is not. Bluntly put, except for the few interesting sections here and there, this album is boring. Even the Pink Floyd cover, “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” is boring. Technically, the album is perfect, the production is in place, everything seems thought-out and put together carefully, but it doesn’t have the prime feature of any 1349 album – it doesn’t hit. What’s been tried out here is outright treading on soil dominated by bands with far more field experience. If I hadn’t known this album was made by this band, I might’ve even liked it, but this way, all you’ll be doing for the full length of this 45-minute album after the 15-minute mark will be waiting for the interlude to pass and the next aggressive, madly angry track to begin. Which never comes.
(originally written for Metal Sound webzine, www.metal-sound.net)