As any Black Metal fan will tell you ‘Santa’ is an anagram of ‘Satan’ – and if anyone is seeking some yuletide engagement with the cloven-hoofed later in preference to the bushy-bearded former, then 1349 will happily stomp all over your mince pies.
The Norwegians have rarely strayed from the original Black Metal path over the past 25 years, both in terms of their sound and their look. If you buy into 1349 you get the whole hog roast, complete with corpse-paint, studded armlets and all the fire and damnation they can muster. Which is a lot!
1349 have never been ones to hide their light under a bushel, not that that would be an easy task with towering frontman Ravn leading the line with his usual commanding authority. But while the veteran Scandi scarabs rejoice in their bubonic blast beats and rancid riff interchanges, that isn’t to say that there’s no guile to sit alongside the grind.
The band’s legendary sticks supremo Frost is an acclaimed master of his cursed craft and provides the sturdy foundation for all that follows. Frost, who of course also pounds the skins for the mighty Satyricon, goes into overdrive on this album but his exhilarating work from behind his kit is matched by axe king Archaon who releases ferocious groove surges, often at moments where you may least suspect. The bass is as fulsome as ever in the hands of Seidemann, providing the underlay to hold everything else in place.
The Infernal Pathway is the band’s seventh album and follows on from the excellent Massive Cauldron of Chaos five years ago. It opens up in typically robust fashion with the incendiary “Abyssos Antithesis” and the demon-lashing “Through Eyes of Stone”.
There are three brief atmospheric pauses on the album under the “Tunnel of Set” tag, which shift uneasily with cold menace. These interventions provide punctuation points between the more trademark attacks that have been a career constant – with perhaps the notable exception of the slower 2008 release Revelations of the Black Flame.
On more conventional tracks such as “Enter Cold Void Dreaming” and “Tower Upon Towers” the muscular maturity in 1349’s sound that has evolved since their debut release Liberation in 2003 is comes to the fore as divergent forces intertwine to mesmerising effect with as many overlaps as Meshuggah or Nile at their confusing best.
“Deeper Still” is another frozen frightener that will have you reaching in desperation for the anti-freeze while “Striding the Chasm” also summons the demons with its thrusting riffage supplemented by occasional maniacal meltdowns. “Dodskamp” is the one song on the album you may have encountered before as it was released as a single at the very start of the year, quite a while before the album itself followed suit. The album ends on a high with “Stand Tall in Fire” a haunting almost medieval opening sequence building into an escalating rush as the flames take on an almost uncontrollable force.
Antichrist readers do not need to be reminded yet again of Norway’s influence in the creation and development of Black Metal. And nor will they need reminding of 1349’s place in the dark scroll of those to have contributed to this legacy. In a year when the likes of Mayhem and Darkthrone have imbued us with new releases, it is only proper that 1349 have done the same. If you’re yet to venture down The Infernal Pathway make it your New Year resolution to do so.
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