Never has a band divided opinion more than 1349. To some, they are defenders of the old guard. Purveyors of extreme black metal the way it used to be played. To others, they are monotonous, plying their blast -beat driven nihilism with little change from album to album. Well, there is 'Legions of the Black Flame', but for some, 1349 went a little too far in another direction entirely. 2011's 'Demonoir' went some way to putting things right, but many felt the band were simply treading water.
Which brings us to 2014, and 1349's new release, 'Massive Cauldron of Chaos' (out in stores now from Indie Records). What we have here is a record that brings together everything that was great about 1349, and mixes it all up without any care for the listener. This is primal black metal, but other genres rear their ugly heads throughout the record. Anything from thrash to crust punk is touched upon, and the urgency and darkness this record encompasses means that 1349 are definitely back on track after the misfires of their previous two albums.
The first thing you many notice about the album is how much better the production is. Everything sounds full, from the guitars, right down to Frosts impeccable drumming. This certainly goes some way to helping create such an other-wordly atmosphere which permeates the records length.
Each song offers up something new, and manages to surprise the listener again and again, and proves that black metal still has a lot of life left in it. The album begins with 'Cauldrons', a hypnotic blast of black metal, but underneath the swirling guitars and drums, there is melody, surprising as it may seem.
Next up is the first single from the album, entitled 'Slaves'. This song features a chorus that will lodge itself in the minds of listeners for hours to come, and the guitar work is breathtaking. One of the best tracks on the album (in my opinion at least).
'Exorcism' comes next, and begins in a very World Ov Worms-era Zyklon kind of way, coupled with the blasting intensity found on early 1349 albums. Yet it manages to dig its claws into you, making its home in your mind with its other-worldliness.
'Postmortem' smacks the listener right in the face with a brilliant thrash riff, and doesn't let up until the chaotic and apocalyptic finale, complete with leads which bring to mind a certain thrash band who wrote a song with the same name.
'Mengele's' has a chaotic cold feeling that grips the listener, shaking them violently with its tale of one of historys most well known madmen. Pure black metal hatred is spewed forth, and any fan of black metal would be sure to be hooked by now.
'Golem' is pure crust-punk with a running time of under two minutes. It definitely does what it was meant to do, and that is bludgeon the listener into submission amongst a battery of relentless drums and guitar with shrieked vocals and stabbing bass.
'Chained' comes next, an apocalyptic slice of riff-driven black metal that sounds absolutely huge. Frosts drumming is as neck-snapppingly good as always, and the riffs really stand out, creating an apocalyptic sound that mirrors the opening of the gates of hell.
The album ends with 'Godslayer', the most experimental track on the album. That isn't to say that is doesn't match the speed and brutality the rest of the album demonstrates, because it does that and so much more. It bought to mind Mayhem or Dodheimsgard in its creativity and brutality, transcending music as a piece of spiritual art that is deeply affecting on every level.
1349 have definitely played to their strengths on 'Massive Cauldron of Chaos', and it is certainly not a one dimensional mass, as some people thought it would have been. They have played to their strengths, and exhibit none of the weaknesses others have picked out in past releases.
For fans of extreme black metal, this is a must-have album. For anyone looking to dip their toes into how black metal used to be played, you could do worse than checking out this release, as it combines all that was good about the first wave of Norweigan black metal in a contamporary package with fantastic production on every instrument.