1349
Massive Cauldron of Chaos

Sometimes you have to realize just how much your relationship with a band is like your real life relationships.  For example, I’ve been in a relationship with 1349 for over ten years.  We’ve had six albums together including new offering Massive Cauldron of Chaos.  That’s longer than my marriage lasted and actually quite a good description of it.  I think for most of us our relationship with metal has lasted longer than most others in our lives.  That probably says something about us personally.  It can also effect how we perceive new music from our beloved artists.

1349 may be the perfect representation of relationship dynamics at work over the course of a musical career.  At first things were new and exciting with Liberation and Beyond the Apocalypse.  They were raging and passionate affairs.  Bold and aggressive even within the underground.  It was a raw, unbridled love that you wouldn’t bring home to mother, or the mainstream of underground fandom.  But, you might be able to fix them up and make them star material.

Then Hellfire landed like an engagement ring.  It was all that fiery passion you knew in the beginning but polished enough you could introduce them to your friends and co-workers.  It was multifaceted, just palatable and impressive enough to parade around at parties, and the hot new thing you could be proud of showing off to your acquaintances.  You really thought you had something special built up over three years of solid releases you could be sure of.  This relationship was going places.

Then the horror struck.  You walked in on your love, your darling, 1349 screwing Tom G. Warrior in the production booth.  Revelations of the Black Flame wasn’t just a matter of getting cheated on though.  I mean maybe if the album was great, you could have had a nice black metal and progressive threesome together.  Instead it felt like getting cheated on with the most strung out crack whore that ever walked down a stretch of badly lit alleyways giving out hand jobs for squares.  The moment you thought you knew who each other were and were willing to build a future together, 1349 had an existential crisis and left you sobbing in front of your family and friends while they were scoring cheap junk in an act of artistic self-destruction under the pressure of success. 

They came back just a short time later with Demonoir.  It was both an apology and an integration of everything they learned on their sabbatical from musical sanity, but it was too little too late.  Though it may very well be their most mature and brilliant record, as a listening audience we were just too afraid of getting hurt again.  The album came too quick for us to forgive them leaving us at the altar.  The message expressed in its musical nuances and philosophical quirks were more than we could safely feel invested in without being afraid of getting burned again in front of our message board peers.  The album didn’t get the respect and attention it probably deserved upon its release.

This brings us to the current album Massive Cauldron of Chaos that comes after a four year wait.  It’s a long break for a band whose hallmark was exceptional productivity in their early years.  Hellfire was released nine long years ago.  Much as a relationship evolves from its early fire into a something both more but different, 1349 has put out an album that retains much of what made them great in the beginning, but has a sense of control, mastery, and creativity that speaks to a maturity they’ve built over time.  The midlife crisis of Revelations is long past and this is the most straightforward record since Beyond the Apocalypse.  It’s also just as good as anything else they’ve put out.

Much like a long relationship as well, it’s easy to take how good this record is for granted.  I thought it sounded good, but didn’t come out and grab me on the first few listens.  Yeah, it was fast, there were some ripping guitar lines, but Raven’s vocals weren’t quite a scathing as in the past, Frost’s blasting not quite as exciting as a decade ago, and the brittle production of the early years is replaced by what is actually a fantastically warm recording.   Though it wasn’t immediately as gratifying as I wanted it to be, I kept finding myself putting it on, not being able to get away from it.  Listen after listen it just kept getting better, and revealing more variation and intensity that went by in a blur on initial listens.

The album opens with the bludgeoning “Cauldron” making statement right away about what you can expect from the record.  Trademark blasting and biting riffs tear away at you with the type power you would expect from their early years. The second half of the chorus bursts with a furious riff that’s a statement that the band has not let up on the aggression whatsoever.    “Slaves” sees Frost giving a pummeling marathon double bass performance under solidly thrashing guitars.  “Exorcism” burns with a resentful mean streak and sees Archaon showing off why he’s a vastly underrated guitarist, with an almost Trey Azagthoth like spacey solo that really makes the track stand out.  The band hits again and again with tracks that seem to have a chip on their shoulder.  Frost even gets in on the songwriting with “Golem,” a minute and a half grind blast that feels like 1349 momentarily channeling early Napalm Death.  That leads cleverly into “Chained” which opens with a riff that saunters with a kind of black metal John Wayne swagger while showing confident and skilled songwriting chops.   Closer “Godslayer” displays all the aggression you know and love but also includes textural nuances and layers in the presentation that shows a band that has found a balance between their solid black metal roots and their expanded toolset of sounds.

This is a record that should bring back into the fold those that lost touch with the band in previous years.  Hopefully they can continue the success of this record and build on it without spiraling out of control next time around.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Dan Wrathburn
November 4th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: E. Thomas

    Love the bands discography but im not liking this- sounds too dry.


  2. Commented by: Dan Wrathburn

    It’s a grower, but worth it. I think the lack of piercing snare drum takes the edge off, but give it time.


  3. Commented by: Jason

    I stopped at Hellfire. Liked everything up to and including that quite a bit. Reviewed most all of that stuff I’m pretty sure, though my old site closed down and lost those for posterity. Loved ’em all though.

    Revelations kinda lost me, and I just kind of go, “Eh,” about everything they’ve done since. I’ll try this one though.


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