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Unfortunate Failure - 35%

Artemus_Cain, October 28th, 2009

1349 more or less saved black metal. They made it interesting when most mainstream metal critics were prepared to call the genre dead. From the debut “Liberation” to the amazing “Hellfire” they’ve maintained a steady sound: a fierce black sound owing with a focus on stellar musicianship, which is a rarity for black metal.

I have no idea what inspired such a radical change in 1349’s sound. Maybe they took Celtic Frost’s break-up way to badly. Maybe the loss of guitarist Tjalve broke everyone else’s spirit. Maybe they didn’t want to be pigeon holed—I don’t fuckin’ know. The point is 1349 sound almost nothing like they used to. A bold move, but is it a good one? Well, no not really.

Guitarist Archeron and Vocalist Ravn have stated in reviews that this album want to take the listener on a journey into Hell, but even listening in that mindset they don't really get there.

Some tracks are dead on:

The kickstarter “Invocation” does its job by pulling us right past the gates so hard, that we shatter the bars. The purely tormented screaming of our new Hellmate sends chills up the spine. Instead of making us envision Hell as a blazing place of speedy flames, the riffs and mood 1349 utilize in this song capture a feeling of hopelessness that eternal servitude and torment under the Horned One would strike up.

“Uncreation” starts with some very good blackened-doomy riffs that are truly terrifying. There are subtle moans and various other sounds in the background at one point that add much to the foreboding feel. This track, I feel, is a perfect summary of this albums goal. A minute until the end, however, a guitar solo comes out of nowhere and kills the mood somewhat. It’s as if I’m being led to the pit of filth by a foreboding demonic creature and right at the entrance, he drags me to the side to show me his ballin’ yo-yo techniques. Guitar solos are not bad at all, but they need to be put in only if they properly compliment the song.

“Misanthropy” starts as a somber piano tune that fades into a doomy guitar exercise that helps add to the overall oppressive hopelessness that this album exhumes.

“Solitude” is a very depressing organ laden piece with a darkly beautiful clean guitar compliment that captures its name perfectly. A feeling of soul crushing defeat and sorrow comes over me when I listen to this.

Then there are the lackluster bits:

The militaristic march of “Serpentine Sibilance” made me see myself as forced to enlist in The Fallen One’s army and prepare an assault on the world above. Honestly though, two minutes as a Hellspawn foot soldier got kinda boring, before sort of aimlessly going to a lackluster psudeo-ambient riff for about a minute before returning me to the battle seemingly out of nowhere. Very inconsistent.

“At The Gate…” is the closer and really culminates the theme of oppressing sorrow and despair. It just trudges along and isn’t really a song, but more of an extended and heavier outro track.

And then what probably shouldn’t have been:

The bizarrely titled “Maggot Fetus... Teeth Like Thorns” is possibly the only song to follow the old tried and true black metal formula and reminds me of drummer Faust’s other band Satyricon when they decide to not suck. It’s fast and powerful and harkens back to 1349’s previous albums, however, it clashes with the overall theme and mood the album tries to put forth. Even though it’s not a bad track, it should’ve been left out.

Perhaps following in Celtic Frost’s example of bizarre choices for covers, up next is Pink Floyd’s “Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” Being unfamiliar with the original (and Pink Floyd in general) I cannot compare the two, but it does have an atmosphere of coldness, darkness, and isolation. Just of a more spacey feel, which again clashes with the theme of Hell. Black Metal in Space! Yeah… no…

“Horns.” Is a very foreboding echo chamber like track that paints a dark picture, but it doesn't really go anywhere.

The Interludes, even the good ones, don’t really say much, but I can’t help shake the fact that they provide a key element to the record. I do feel, though, that all of these interludes could’ve had their length cut and have been meshed with the actual songs though, and they would still get their message across.

So, at the end of the day, we have an album that, unfortunately, fails. The times it achieves its purported goal of dragging listeners into Hell are broken up with bad ideas and unfocused mess. This is probably going to go down as 1349’s “Unspoken King” or, more appropriately, “Cold Lake.” Which is too bad, because with more time and a lot more focus, I think Archeron and friends could’ve pulled it off.