Review Summary: It may have been five years since the last 1349 full-length release, but on this evidence it seems the band have forgotten none of their successful tropes. Another great black metal effort to enjoy.
Norway's 1349 haven't found their relative success through consistency. The quality of their studio output has ranged from mundane (Demonoir
) to game-changing (Hellfire
) to arguably appreciative albeit forgettable experimentation (Revelations of the Black Flame
). This year's The Infernal Pathway
must have come as a bit of a surprise considering its the third 1349 release (unless you count the Dodskamp
EP as well) in a decade.That said, the band have focused their musical efforts on striking familiarity more than anything over the last decade, and the aforementioned Dodskamp
-for all its commendable inspiration-was certainly a nod towards straightforward albeit malevolent musical prowess.
Whilst “Dodskamp” has made it onto The Infernal Pathway
(and funnily enough turns out to be one of the album highlights), it isn't quite the be-all-end-all centrepiece fans were expecting. Whilst much of 1349's latest full-length is essentially no-frills black metal, there's enough driving force in songs such as brilliant opener “Abyssos Antithesis” and notably sinister “Enter Cold Void Dreaming” to provide something for extreme metal fans to get their hooks into. As usual guitar work is at the forefront, Archaeon blasting scything riffs and never seeming to run out of ideas, the conviction of his display aiming for a pacy black metal assault and nothing else. Most of the songs here tread very familiar territory, but are performed with solid and electrifying menace, ensuring consistency is maintained until the bitter end. Sure, the three “Tunnel of Set” interludes are more of a shoehorned element than useful breaks from all the chaos, but so short are they that you'll likely be left pondering the next black metal assault which arrives shortly after.
The Infernal Pathway
does have its more adventurous moments, though never do they take charge of a full song except perhaps for the lengthy closer “Stand Tall in Fire”, a memorable effort which builds via doomy narrative and a hellish mid-paced instrumental march to a crushing crescendo. The aforementioned “Dodskamp” is of course a point of interest, as it was when initially released in an EP earlier this year. It's certainly the most melancholic song of the album and doesn't quite focus its efforts on musicianship so much as it does emotional turmoil, an aspect which was obviously spearheaded by the artistic inspiration behind the scenes. Elsewhere, “Towers Upon Towers” introduces narrative work in the same vein as in “Stand Tall in Fire”, but with a more unified contrast to the usual flaying guitar work rattling in the background.
As said earlier, these are moments where 1349 still have it in them to step beyond their own comfort zone but never quite breathe new life in their own familiar territory. That's why those who enjoyed 2014's Massive Cauldron of Chaos
will likely be the same listeners to enjoy The Infernal Pathway
, because of the band's resistance to look back on past experiments. That said, you can tell that 1349 have settled on a sound that works for them, and in spite of the fact that This Infernal Pathway
is really just great solid black metal, it is performed and driven with a still chaotic energy which will keep you alive until the end.