1349 - _Revelations of the Black Flame_
(Candlelight Records, 2009)
by: Jackie Smit (
When it comes to black metal -- particularly the relentlessly blasting variety upon which Norway's 1349 built their impressive reputation -- the idea of change is viewed with about as much acceptance and positive feeling as a copy of the St. James bible. So one has to wonder what could possibly have contributed to the radical shift in their musical raison d'être, particularly when _Revelations of the Black Flame_ delves so far into reinvention that even hardened fans may find themselves wondering whether they're actually listening to the same band. Personally, I blame all that time spent on the road with Celtic Frost. God knows that Thomas Gabriel Fischer's needlessly verbose, online snivel-fests are enough to drive me to self-harm. Whatever it is, the pained howl that opens the album suggests that 1349's fourth full-length was inspired by some seriously dark subject matter, and jokes aside, many tracks contain more than passing reference to the hypothermia-inducing blackened doom of Celtic Frost. A far cry from the straightforward attack of its predecessors, this is a sophisticated slice of sonic Satanism, at least a quarter of which finds itself swimming in a sea of desolate, expansive soundscapes. At times, these are stunning; "Horns" will send chills up the spine of hard nuts who make a habit of eating their Sunday lunch whilst watching "Cannibal Holocaust". But often these amount to little more than a lazy way of passing time -- neither embellishing on the material, nor creating any sort of immersive ambience. When the band switch on their guitar amps, it's a similarly mixed bag. You can count the number of blast beats employed across the record's entirety on one hand, and during songs like "Uncreation" you can not shake the feeling that you've heard it all before.The tragedy is that _Revelations of the Black Flame_ had all the makings of a masterpiece. It has moments of utter genius, such as the brilliantly sombre "Solitude", and the Venom-ous "Teeth Like Thorns". But held up to both peers and preceding releases, the album is patchy and self-indulgent -- in spirit at least, a little like Celtic Frost's own _Into the Pandemonium_ . Then again, perhaps that's what they were going for all along.
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