Released: 2009, Candlelight Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Following up 2005’s HELLFIRE, Norway’s 1349 returns with their latest slab of blasphemy, REVELATIONS OF THE BLACK FLAME. Whereas HELLFIRE was a relentless salvo of black metal nihilism, REVELATIONS attempts a slower, more cerebral and atmospheric approach. The resulting 9 tracks are destined to stir controversy amongst fans of the band about whether the new direction is genius or a colossal misstep.
Over the course of the band’s career, 1349 has built a reputation for delivering raw, caustic speed. For this release the band has taken a creative left turn, slowing the pace to a methodical plod throughout much of the record and introducing layers of ambient noise to set the atmosphere for each track. Much of REVELATIONS sounds like it should be a soundtrack to an experimental, artsy horror flick, as it succeeds in creating unsettling aural landscapes. But there’s not much in the way of traditional “songs” as fans have come to expect. 3 of the 9 tracks are instrumental and for most of the remaining 6 tracks, the vocals are subdued and almost whispered. With the exception of a few songs like “Serpentine Sibilance” and “Maggot Fetus…Teeth Like Thorns,” 1349 stays as far away as possible from familiar black metal territory. A cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun” is rendered almost unrecognizable from the original in this setting, but the resulting treatment that the band gives it is powerful and fits in well with the rest of the material.
REVELATIONS OF THE BLACK FLAME is not an easy album to listen to. It took several dedicated listens with the headphones strapped on tightly to really understand what the band was trying to do here. Had the band churned out HELLFIRE part 2, it would be likely be viewed as yet another compilation of traditional black metal fare amongst a genre of bands churning out similar music. With this release, 1349 has gone completely in the opposite direction and has carved a unique niche for themselves in the process. As such, the band’s new direction will likely have fans and critics talking about the album for a long time. My only complaint about the album isn’t the change in stylistic direction, but the unbalanced amount of atmospheric filler that seems to permeate here. Play with your artistic tendencies however you’d like, but don’t charge fans full price for a disc that’s not “full.” The listening experience is entertaining and certainly different than what you’d expect from the band, but at the conclusion of the disc I kept finding myself thinking “that’s it?” or “that’s all they could come up with?”
With REVELATIONS OF THE BLACK FLAME, 1349 has reinvented their take on the black metal genre, a fact that will alienate many fans and cause others to foam at the mouth with rapture. It’s definitely worth a listen for the atmospheric accomplishments alone, but you probably won’t find yourself returning for repeated listens.