1349 may not have been one of the first bands in the early black metal scene in Norway, but they have certainly proven to be one of the most influential. They are known for a super heavy approach to black metal, and for featuring one of the most revered musicians in the scene, Frost from the mighty Satyricon. Starting with Liberation, 1349 have released some of the fastest, heaviest, and most uncompromising black metal, with each album setting new standards for brutality.
After extensive touring and the release of the band’s first live DVD, Hellvetia Fire, there has been a big demand from 1349’s fans for a new studio offering, and I certainly include myself in that category. Well, the planets have aligned, the gods have heard our cries, and 1349 have now unleashed Massive Cauldron of Chaos upon the metal world after a four year wait! Contained in these 8 tracks is everything you could possibly want on a 1349 record; Frost’s drumming has lost none of its speed, Ravn’s vocals are as strong and malevolent as ever, Archaon’s guitar attack is brutal and chaotic, and Seidemann’s bass work gives an excellent low-end counterpoint to the guitars.
In many ways this album represents a return to form, delving into the band’s past to draw out some truly vicious and raw black metal; this isn’t to say that this is an attempt to relive “past glories,” since there is palpable sense of urgency in their playing. “Cauldron” sets the mood with some ambient tones and sound effects, building into a blistering riff that runs you over like a freight train with sheer speed and heaviness; from the minute the full band kicks in on the first track, 1349 never let up, choosing, rather, to pound the listener into submission with a chaotic wall of riffs and blast-beats.
Massive Cauldron of Chaos isn’t just business as usual, and it continues pushing 1349 into new directions. One thing you’ll notice early on is that the band have incorporated a little more melody than in previous efforts, and even have some classic heavy metal-sounding leads. “Slaves”, for example, has some great melodic moments that border on NWOBHM; I almost get an Immortal vibe from this song, particularly their newer and more melody-driven efforts. Still, the melodies don’t really lighten the blow, actually enhancing the material and pushing 1349 into previously uncharted territory. If you don’t believe me, just check “Golem”, which even though is the shortest song on the album, still manages to make an impact with an awe-inspiring guitar solo that shows a previously unheard level of technicality from Archaon.
Things are not perfect, however, since the production isn’t always handled as well as it could have been. The overdubs, which could have added a lot to the album, were not mixed properly, so sometimes they fail to sound like a natural part of the song, particularly with the more melodic bits. As much as I enjoyed the melodies on “Slaves” and “Mengele’s,” they sound a bit tacked on, and you can definitely tell the overdubs were done in a different session, possibly even a different studio. The guitar lines in question are turned up a bit too high in the mix, and just sound so different from the mixing on the rest of the music that they really stand out… in a bad way. Still, in the great scheme of things, this is just a minor annoyance within a very strong release.
1349 have shown that they are still a force to be reckoned with, and long-time fans will be glad to know that the band’s intensity is still very much intact. There is still a little work to be done as far as incorporating the melodies effectively into the sound, but the ingredients are all there in 1349’s cauldron to concoct a seriously potent new brew.