REVIEW: 1349 – “The Infernal Pathway”
With an unorthodox name and a rich history, 1349 (which was the year that black death came to Norway, wiping out almost 2/3 of the country’s population, thus ending what historians call the “golden age of Norway”) have been challenging religious hordes and wrecking havoc since 1997, when bassist Seidemann and vocalist Ravn (who also played drums back then) joined forces with past members Tjalve and Balfori.
The constant sound shifts and progressive evolution in the Norwegians music has been the subject of discussion between the trve metal circles out there – especially when the infamous ‘Revelations of the Black Flame’ came out in 2009 – but as of now it seems that they managed to fully transition to a style that comforts themselves and fans alike, which translates in their 7th full-length album, ‘The Infernal Pathway’.
The album opens in full power with “Abyssos Antithesis”, showing that they are still the leaders of the post-90’s Norwegian black metal scene. With strong blackened thrash elements, the song quickly grabs the listener into a twist of evilness worthy of the blasphemous genre. The album as a whole, in fact, is stacked with a thrash vibe to the point that I would call it a black/thrash album instead of a pure Norwegian black record.
Ethereal, almost secular parts are also present, notably in songs like instrumentals “Tunnel of Set VIII, IX and X” and the thunderous “Towers Upon Towers”. The mystical approach, combined with the already mentioned thrashier elements and some pure, raw black metal is an interesting mix that works well with the overall atmosphere.
Perfect examples of this are “Striding the Chasm” and most definitely closer “Stand Tall in Fire”. Both are ruthless, catastrophic and apocalyptical, and with enough melody to sound tuneful at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, these have all been done before – and better – but it all seems organic and truthful, which is something that a few of 1349’s last works were struggling to be.
Production-wise, this is what you would expect a 1349 release to be. Good dynamics and a nice, balanced volume make for some good mixing, allowing the experience to be raw but also accessible. There’s a little bit of overkill in the bass and drums at times, but these don’t tend to minimize other instruments or the overall atmosphere. Some of the ambient, less-bombastic passages could still scare some of 1349’s fanbase, but this is something that they are relying on since ‘Demonoir’ came out back in 2010, so it’s nothing new or surprising.
The band seem to have reached what they wanted to do instrumental-wise in ‘Massive Cauldron of Chaos’ (2014) and have continued on the same path in ‘The Infernal Pathway’, so all in all what we have here is a more refined record in terms of songwriting and execution when compared to their last two. The Norwegian quartet has delivered a good slab of black/thrash without sounding too repetitive or making the same mistakes of ‘Revelations of the Black Flame’; while this won’t be making any top lists out there, it’s definitely worth checking out.