posted on 5/2010 By:
1349’s last album Revelations Of The Black Flame was far less of a disappointment to me as it was for many others, mostly because while I’ve always respected the band, I’ve never really considered them to be major players in Norway’s black metal scene. Even though Revelations was a good example of a creative departure gone wrong, there were moments peppered throughout that album that I found more interesting than anything I’ve heard from them before. The first time I listened to some samples from Demonoir, I wasn’t very impressed, as it sounded very much like their usual ballistic fare, but after setting it off to the side for a while and returning to it recently for a few proper spins, it's become clear that 1349 hasn’t just redeemed themselves, they’ve successfully expanded upon all the esoteric and atmospheric attempts that their previous album tried and failed at, and the results will rip your damn face off.
To put it mildly, Demonoir features some of the most ridiculously intense music the band has ever written, but along the way there’s been a noticeable increase in the varying of the tempo away from the one-speed tediousness they’ve previously fallen victim to. “When I Was Flesh” is home to some wild riffs not far removed from Deathspell Omega, but it’s Frost’s manic drum bashing along with Ravn’s cauterizing rasp and hiss that breathes rancid life into this taut, visceral tune. The band has wisely infused their post-rock and industrial attributes in limited amounts among seven short instrumental interludes, “Tunnel Of Set XI-XVII”, each of them placed between the six actual songs, with all of them assisting greatly in the flow of the disc by adding just the right amount of dread, discord, and jarring ambiance.
Although “Atomic Chapel” does initially swing for the fences with a nailbat, there’s a whole lot of variation between mightier grooves that momentarily slam the brakes on the machinegun BPMs, but this beating is still quite relentless. “Psalm 7:77” then launches into what I can only describe as a two-minute riff orgy of tumultuous proportions before taking a minute to collect steam before soaring somewhere into the stratosphere and back again with some of the most bizarre effects I’ve ever heard them use with a speed-of-light blast beat onslaught. Ravn again spits his lyrics with a fervor bordering on murderous, as this track is possibly the finest the band has ever written, and was a magnificent return to form and beyond.
“Pandemonium War Bells” brings to mind earlier, rawer Watain but with an updated feel due to the sprawl of all those blazing tremolo riffs, but things eventually slow down into a militaristic stomp before coiling tightly and unleashing a final salvo. The “Tunnel Of Set XV” segue takes a page out of The Axis Of Perdition’s volume swell playbook that leaves you totally unprepared for “The Devil Of The Desert” and its initially decapitating rush, but 1349 take it relatively easy during this track by slowing down considerably and letting Frost throw in a bit more texture while never letting their momentum ebb until it’s time to rev the engine again. “Demonoir” also begins pensively at a stalking pace, concentrating on Ravn’s demented whispers and growls over a simple riff and hellacious background effects, yet when compared to the rest of the material, the title track is a bit uneventful and easy to digest. The closing chapter “Tunnel Of Set XVII” concludes the album with a mild whirlpool of reverb, slowly fading into the depths, slipping into nothingness with waves of echoing dissonance.
1349 took a wise step back and realized they could still be ambitious while maintaining the fury of their trademark hellish blast assault, and yet without pushing things so far past experimentation that all they’re left with is a mess of unfocused ideas. They learned from their past and wound up releasing the exact album they needed to, making their label mates Ov Hell look really bad in comparison. I wouldn’t call it a classic, for further tweaks could have been made, but Demonoir is a most striking release nonetheless, and a very caustic statement from this revitalized veteran act that deserves notice. Surprisingly kick-ass.
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Revelations Of The Black Flame
Beyond The Apocalypse