Beginning in 1348, the Black Death (or bubonic plague) wreaked merciless havoc across much of Europe, piling the bodies to the sky and eventually killing off thirty to sixty percent of the continent’s population before all was said and done. It was around October of the year 1349 when an English ship filled to the brim with diseased rats and lifeless corpses arrived at Bergen that the deadly destroyer tore its path through Norway’s border and sunk its teeth in deep for further, infectious destruction of human life.
Nearly seven-hundred years later, in 1997, a new kind of devastation began its deadly life on Norwegian soil. It was at that time that black metal berserkers, 1349, joined forces to carry on a similarly powerful reign of terror, replacing a body count of innocent villagers with that of relentless poser disposal in the world of extreme music. Featuring former members of Alvheim as well as drummer Frost, of Satyricon, 1349 have been leaving the supporters and initiators of weak trends no choice whatsoever than to bring out their dead to the gutter and surrender to demise. The band has shared the stage with the likes of Carcass and Cannibal Corpse. Now with five full-length releases under their belt, 1349’s brand of black metal infection is still on the rampage.
Recorded in the Norwegian wilderness and co-produced by Celtic Frost/Triptykon madman Tom G. Warrior, the grim quartet’s latest effort, Demonoir (Prosthetic/Indie Recordings), consists of quite possibly the band’s most vicious and menacing material to date. Where Revelations Of The Black Flame raised a few eyebrows with its ambient passages and an atmospheric quality some viewed as low on the scale of blackened brutality, Demonoir maintains a grand, coexistent balance between the calm and the storm, and doesn’t just pull out the stops, it cuts them out with lethal aggression, leaving jagged wounds in the aftermath. The record’s ambient pieces intersect the more straight-forward black metal numbers and are titled as “Tunnel of Set”, arranged with their own roman numeral (eleven through seventeen, not in that order) and when arranged in order and standing on their own, could be heard as an independent work on their own steam. The first non-ambient track, “Atomic Chapel” (easily a highlight of Demonoir) sets the pace nicely, with a raspy spoken approach courtesy of vocalist, Ravn. This vocal style, while largely favored on this track, is accompanied by Ravn’s trademark raw-throated shrieks. The song culminates in the somewhat surprising inclusion of a frenzied piano passage. Where the use of piano by some black metal acts, can easily be seen as overdone or just plain boring, 1349 mix keys with an effective dementia. Kindred spirits, stylistically speaking, can be found in “When I Was Flesh” and “Pandemonium War Bells”, as most of the record maintains a guitar-fueled sound. “Psalm 7:77” explodes in a torrent of thrash-tinted riffs and whiplash speed, complete with a scorching guest solo by Norwegian guitar assassin, Ronnie leTekro delivering a monstrous end result.
Just as The Black Death held Europe in its cold, remorseless grip centuries ago, 1349 have continued their growing legacy with lethal calculations. Demonoir is proof positive that the band has earned their place in the Norwegian black metal history books. Bring out your dead, and prepare for the plague! There is no vaccine to save you from 1349’s Demonoir!!