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So here it is, the most controversial Black Metal release of 2009. The latest effort from the Norwegian powerhouse 1349 is sure to turn many heads, but not for the reasons you might think. Like CRYPTOPSY's "The Unspoken King" did last year, "Revelations Of The Black Flame" sees 1349 experimenting with new sounds and directions. And just like CRYPTOPSY, 1349 is going to feel that there are few things the Metal-scene is less open to than drastic changes and screwing around with tested formulas.
For "Revelations Of The Black Flame", 1349 got help from their good friend and experimentalist fellow Tom G. Warrior. It's not known to what degree his involvement influenced the band's new and remarkably darker direction, but people expecting a sequel to "Hellfire" will be sorely disappointed. The no-nonsense speed and brutality that the band has made their trademark is almost completely dissolved, and instead we get mid-tempo Black Metal and Dark Ambient interludes. I'll go as far as saying that it's completely understandable that this album has long-time fans tearing their hair out, but how well does it stand on its own.
Starting out with a agonized scream that would not feel out of place on a STALAGGH-release, "Invocation" marks the beginning of a painful and dark journey through the depths of hell. What follows is a strange mix of modern Black Metal, nightmarish Dark Ambient that sounds almost David Lynchian in its unsettling subtlety, and a few touches of their old brutal sound. Since the Ambient parts take up a considerably large portion of the album's running-time, some people have accused the band of resorting to using filler material. On this point I would beg to differ, since these interludes are both darker and more chilling than anything the band has recorded before. The Black Metal-portion of "Revelations..." are actually the least interesting parts, but while "Maggot Fetus... Teeth Like Thorns" isn't too far from their roots, "Uncreation" stands as the finest track of their career. The album rounds off with "At The Gate...", which sounds like a Doom Metal band going overboard with vocal-effects and droning samples, channeling bands like SUNN O))). A strange mash-up indeed.
The numerous twists and oddities on "Revelations Of The Black Flame" are enough to put off most old-time fans, and I doubt 1349 thought they'd get away without controversy when covering a PINK FLOYD-track. One can question whether this album should have been released under another name than 1349, but I admire their decision to break away from their old formula. With that being said, "Revelations..." is not exactly a avant-garde or experimental masterpiece. The nightmare-ambiance has been pulled off many times before, and the quite fragmented nature of the album gives off the feeling of being a somewhat unfinished experiment. Time will tell if this was a one-off quirky project, or if it marks the transition into a wholly different 1349. No matter how much the fans will miss the cacophony that is "Hellfire", this band has demonstrated that they bow to no-one, even if they might should have taken a little more time to fully define their new sound.
(Online July 2, 2009)
Written for the Metal Observer