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Could Have Much Been More - 70%

Five_Nails, August 9th, 2009

One of the coldest and darkest bands of Norway’s black metal scene, 1349’s latest album, “Revelations of the Black Flame” is a good album for a black metal fix, but the slow pace of many of the songs and too many ambient scene setting songs makes this album much weaker than it could have been.

Beginning with “Invocation”, a weird horrified screaming is heard until a dark cold ambient noise comes to the fore that eventually changes to the first song. Kicking in very fast, eventually the song slows down to a drone of guitars with powerful heavy drumming from Satyricon’s Frost. The vocals come through very well over the top of all this with a low yell that sometimes breaks into a wild screech.

The very catchy “Serpentine Sibilance” begins with another very slow drone of guitars and drums as though a war march while two voices simultaneously do vocals. The blackened ambiance of the song comes through perfectly as the song continues with Frost again showing off his exploding double bass kicking. This song has more the dark ambiance of a death metal chug rather than a cold fast black metal song. There is very little snare drumming and the guitars stay at a very slow pace throughout most of the song. The song finally blasts into a normal black metal grind at 3:25 while all instruments explode into a torrent of notes that results in a large amount of drum blending that sends the guitars to the back of the song but keeps the vocals right on top.

“Horns” is a completely ambient sound that proficiently sets the forbidden tone of the music. Though it goes on for a long time, it is worth a listen or two, but there really isn’t much more content than just a few ambient sounds.

“Maggot Fetus” begins with a very classic black metal riff reminiscent of early Venom’s “Countess Bathory” or “Bloodlust” with Frost drumming rapidly in the background bringing in some intense double bass blast fills here and there. The song, other than the intense drumming sounds like an early black metal song more than a modern Norwegian black metal song. The drums continue to blend a good amount, but they are the only instrument going at any quick pace until the solo at 1:56. Everything else drones on at a slow pace including the lyrics. As the drums take center stage creating a powerhouse of heavy metal added to the rest of the band. It is obvious that Frost is the most talented part of the band as his drumming is the fastest and coldest addition to the music and the rest of the band seem to just back off and let him do his own thing. I’m not going to try and suggest they create a super band, but 1349 could definitely do with some more unique guitar work and less stale droning riffing.

“Misanthropy” is in the same vein as “Horns”, completely ambient and really doesn’t do much for the black metal feel of the band so much as the B movie feel of the album. It really doesn’t have much going for it and is really a one-listen song.

“Uncreation” is another dark droning song with a good double bass and guitar chug combination at around 1:33 that doesn’t blend at all. This is the kind of elaboration I was looking for earlier with “Maggot Fetus” and 1349 delivers on the slower but still as powerful black metal ambiance and music. There is an amazing solo and freezing drum combination later in the song that breaks up the continuing monotony as well as closes out the song that definitely gives the song full marks because of it, but there are a few other places where more could have been put into the song.

“Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” begins with a slow set of bass kicking and riffing. Soon, though an extremely fast set of double bass kicking comes in quietly but soon ends. The double bass comes in again as some different riffing is used later in the song, but for the most part this song sounds like 1349’s response to Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” with such quiet music, so many synthesized sounds, and whispered lyrics. There seems to be a considerable amount of science fiction influence in this song, or drugs, as it continues with its very quiet and desolate atmosphere, as though 1349 is playing in the center of miles of nothingness and the listener is far, far away from the band.

“Solitude” is another ambient track. By this point in the album, there have been too many ambient tracks and too few actual black metal tracks. I understand that 1349 was going for a feeling here, but the feeling is lost when even the best of the tracks still seem like demos and the tracks are cold, dark, and slow enough to create an ambiance of their own. It seems to me that the band has lost some of their gusto going into this album, and as the album goes on, the gust keeps falling away.

The final song of the album, “At the Gate” finally starts at 1:08 but is another pretty much ambient track to round out the album. 1349 has given up by this track and though it again creates a good ambient sound, it is not the grim black metal that I was looking for when I picked up this album.

After reading the reviews for this album, I really wanted to go against the grain and like it, but I’m pretty disappointed with this attempt as 1349 has become another black metal band that has lost what made them a great band. Seeing them live last year was one of my favorite black metal live experiences as they played with a group of death metal bands and brought a very unique experience to the fore, but that was before they release this album which, at the end of the day sucks compared to their earlier stuff. Luckily the live album added to the release makes this album not totally flop, but it is not enough as their new material is more dark ambient than intense black metal.