For those of you that are new to black metal, 1349 stand amongst the Norwegian PURE black metal monsters/masters that are Immortal, Darkthrone, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Carpathian Forest, Taake, Burzum, and Satyricon (no, I did not miss any). My favorite 1349 album has always been Hellfire. 1349’s sound is for someone who wants a very pure form of black metal, but with a bunch of melody mixed in to give it some extra color. I guess a band that would compare to 1349’s sound would be Watain, but Watain isn’t nearly as fast and chaotic as 1349 (even though I like Watain more). But as far as the quality of the music goes, there are only a few traditional black metal bands that can surpass the quality of Hellfire.
I think I might have under exaggerated the amount of melody this album has. It seems that when you look at just plain black metal all by itself, some of the variations include simple, but extremely gritty and rough (Darkthrone, Mayhem, Drowning the Light), complete insanity and chaos (Gorgoroth, Immortal, Dark Funeral), a bit of a rock n’ roll feel at times (Carpathian Forest, Ravencult, newer Darkthrone), and a traditional sound that’s farther on the melodic side (Watain, Dark Fortress, Drudkh, Burzum). 1349 is more in ranks with Watain as far as HOW MUCH melody they incorporate into their music; but like I said before, the speed and chaos is easily comparable to Gorgoroth. But then again, some of the songs on this album have as much melody as Wolves in the Throne Room.
The general sound that this album has can be accurately described with just one word: POWERFUL. Not only does the music alone make it powerful, but how all the instruments are mixed and produced. In volume, the drums surpass the vocals and guitars to act as the dominant instrument as well as the base. The guitars have a very fuzzy distortion that is as far away from crunchy as you can get. This is one of the characteristics that only make black metal sound more powerful; it weakens the music if it’s put in any other genre. I don’t really know how to describe the position of the vocals…the place where they stand isn’t as obvious as it usually is. It seems more that the vocals are weaved and spread throughout every single layer of the music rather than being on their own layer.
I don’t know what song off this album is the most famous, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s I Am Abomination. This song was the first thing that put the word “melodic” into my head. After that cheesy voice, the music literally erupts like a frozen volcano into one of the best black metal intros I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s one of those things where you KNOW that these guys are going to have a powerful sound INSTANTLY after they play the first chord. Containing some of the tightest and strongest blast beats played by the (possibly superhuman) drummer, the mix of brutality on the drum set and epic melody on the guitars create a black metal masterpiece that introduces you the album known as Hellfire.
Although I’m a fan of all but one of 1349’s albums, Hellfire is what I would recommend to everyone, especially as a first impression. I would give this album a perfect score for creating a huge smile on my face with the first chords and keeping it there until the guitars fade to raindrops at the end. This is an absolute essential (not just for the black metal collection) for any metalhead that enjoys black metal in any amount.