A lot of people want the same thing over and over again. I guess there’s comfort in predictability, especially when it comes to music, because it means people don’t have to adjust to their favorite artists taking chances and seeing what else is out there. It’s a sad way of viewing the world, but that’s how many people operate.
So when Nordic black metal stalwarts 1349 took a bizarre twist toward experimentation on their last two records, the response was predictably strained. It wasn’t the 1349 we heard on their landmark release “Hellfire.” It was them dabbling in sounds that made people uncomfortable. Why couldn’t it just steamroll like all their other records? Look, I don’t have an issue with people who heard those albums and they just didn’t gel with them. It happens. But there seemed to be this unwillingness to go on the adventure with the band and see the bigger picture. You already had “Hellfire” in your collection, so if you wanted to hear that, just go put it on. Should a band really adhere to a template in which they’re forced only to make something that won’t have their full hearts in it? And for the record, I love both “Revelations of the Black Flame” and “Demonoir,” albums I still visit regularly to this day, along with “Hellfire,” “Beyond the Apocalypse,” and “Liberation.” To me, they’re all really strong records by one of the world’s fieriest bands.
Having enjoyed the sidetracks 1349 have taken led me to really love their latest record “Massive Cauldron of Chaos” even more. It’s a call to arms. It’s a revisit to their black metal tyranny where it’s violence through and through. And because they took those adventures into the murk, this album bursts with life and a fury of a band reborn. It’s a really solid, really enjoyable record, and these tracks are going to kill live. The band–vocalist Ravn, guitarist Archaon, bassist Seidemann, and drummer Frost–rampages on this son of a bitch, and while their days of experimentation might not be fully behind them (at least I hope not), they still remember how to maul and bludgeon you along with the best of them.
Opener “Cauldron” actually sounds like the band is boiling up sound inside of one, with its weird, swirling noises afoot. Then the band hits the gas pedal hard, driving forward with intensity and savagery, with Ravn’s vocals sounding raw as hell. It’s a great first dose of what’s ahead, and next up is “Slaves,” a track that could be a crowd favorite in no time. The music is thrashy, the guys gallop hard, and the killer chorus declaring, “Slaves shall serve!” could be a crowd callback for years to come. There even are some moments where the composition sounds inspired by Rush, as they head into proggier territory. “Exorcism” explodes with sinister melody, a knifing tempo, and guitar lines that sound like classic 1349, so much so that they spark a sort of morbid nostalgia. “Despair, the mouth of fire swallows all,” Ravn declares, as the guys back him up with chaos that sounds flashy and a little show off-y at times. Yeah, sounds like they’re having a good time here. “Postmortem” is a little trickier but no less cataclysmic, as the track is bloodthirsty and speedy, and the vocals are creaky and monstrous.
“Mengele’s” likely doesn’t need much dissection simply based on the title, and the band indeed delves deep into inhuman horrors, with Ravn howling about boiling flesh and existence desecrated. It’s as ugly and terrifying as you can expect, and the creepiness at the fade out slams the lab door shut. “Golem” bursts out of the gates, with drums crushing, and the band wasting no time making their statement and getting out fast. It’s the shortest song on the record, but one of the most urgent as well. “Chained” is charged up, with guitars swirling in the atmosphere and some pure oxygen let into the room. The band goes back to exploring proggier waters, and Seidemann’s bass work gets muddy and tar thick as it splatters into the final bits of guitar work. Closer “Godslayer” is an apocalyptic ending, with Ravn’s vocals slamming home the song’s simplistic, but ultimately catchy chorus that greets you right away. The verses burn and give off smoke, some spoken lines come off like they’re being delivered from a crypt, and the guys lets the fires rage out of control as they draw to the finish off this punishing record.
It’s awesome to hear how inspired and motivated 1349 are on “Massive Cauldron of Chaos,” and those who hungered for a “proper” follow-up to “Hellfire” finally can stop their whining. To me, this album holds more weight because it sounds like a collection of songs they wanted to do and weren’t required to do. The band explored, morphed, and turned into a different monster, and now they’re back to flat out kill again. This is a really energetic, devastating release that should satisfy every dark pang within your filthy body.
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