Norwegian black metal legends 1349 recently released a re-issue of their fifth studio album, “Demonoir”, as well as packaging it in a limited edition box-set (1000 world-wide) with bonus tracks and live tracks.
I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t pick up Tom “unGh” Warrior produced “Demonoir” the first time around. 1349’s Gorgoroth-esque style of “true Norwegian black metal” never appealed to me simply because I don’t find it that interesting. But there are thousands of people who do, and I wanted to understand why.
As a musician, specifically as a drummer, I can tell you that part of the reason is the amazing musicianship this group possesses. Legendary Satyricon drummer Frost is perhaps the most recognized member of 1349, but he has skills to back up the hype. This man has six arms and four legs. Guitarist Ronnie leTekrö is on fire, and although Ravn’s vocals aren’t always gentle on my ears, he knows what he’s doing.
The boxset can ultimately be broken down into three parts. “Demonoir” itself is made up of two halves: the “Tunnel” interludes and the actual tracks. The bonus material is an entirely separate affair. The live tracks, of course, stand on their own merit.
“Demonoir”, the musical, has been hailed as a “classic” album, a critically acclaimed black metal template. I can’t really argue with this, especially after listening to ‘Revelations of the Black Flame’, a kind of aural mess. “Demonoir” is a return to 1349’s roots, pleasing fans and critics alike.
‘Atomic Chapel’ hurls straight into hell with lightning fast riffs and Frost’s inhuman double bass pounding propelling Ravn’s demonic snarls. A fluctuating tempo driven by his flawless drumming keep a firm grasp on the listener. It’s a perfectly executed example of traditional black metal, just without the shit production. The addition of the live cut of this track accentuates the studio version with an unbound and unholy raw experience. Live, it is just as fast and brutal in all areas, and a true testament to Frost‘s abilities on the skins.
‘When I Was Flesh’ is a white knuckled rollercoaster, relentless and turbulent. The heart pounding, singular guitar work, non-stop assailment of drums and Ravn’s words are law. This blackened frenzy leaves you breathless and wanting more. Going through the tunnel into ‘Psalm 7:77’ opens the hellish gate to outstanding musicianship partnered with beastly, inhuman growling. Even with this delirious pace they have contrasting passages to show off leTekrö’s talent, chanted courses ripped straight from the satanic bible, maniacal yet purposeful drumming, and death growls that make even Lucifer jealous.
Blood rains down upon ‘The Devil of the Desert,’ and ‘Pandemonium War Bells’ makes me want to kick some ass. Menacing, bold and black to the core. Title track ‘Demonoir’ begins with distorted vocals, which are used on and off throughout the album. I would have preferred unaltered growling, one of my few complaints. ‘Demonoir’ is self-aware. Carefully anxious, it reflects a thoughtful approach to songwriting, taking its time to put every element in its place.
These are only a few examples of what their legion already knows: 1349 is hellishly brutal with the talent to back it up. Fast, furious and fucked up, this release is a must for die-hard 1349-ers. It is a journey, albeit a blackened one, back to the roots of Norwegian style black metal. Although the “Tunnel” tracks may not appeal to everyone, as a whole, the sequence is creepy and almost logical. These Nordic lads have made their mark many times over, and this release cements their legacy in the annals of metal. And I’m not even a fan!
My favorite thing about this re-release? The covers! Hire 1349 for the ultimate soon-to-end-in-divorce wedding experience. 1349 hails Morbid Angel’s grittier days with a heavy rendition of “Rapture.” “Strike of the Beast” is an excellent, and surprising, Exodus cover. Out of left field is an intriguing, unsettling take on “Nerves” by goth legends Bauhaus, a wtf-choice of cover that oddly works. And, in my opinion, the most striking move on 1349’s part, and confirmation of a closet thrash fanatic, is Possessed’s “The Heretic.”
“Fall to the abyss of Hell” you will – “Demonoir”: ferrying your soul to the underworld in a Dark Angel t-shirt.