Originally written by Jason Jordan.
Humorous how a band like 1349 conjures the fiery depths of Hell, whereas a group like Immortal embodies cold Arctic winds which terrorize frozen tundra. I’m also obligated to point out that – though I’ve been known to enjoy these Norwegians’ music – I don’t care for their numeric moniker. It is significant in a sense, because it was the year Norway’s population was ravaged by the Plague. But conversely, the name 1349 is immeasurably superior to the zip code names that all those punk bands used to adopt. Speaking of the former, this is the group’s third album in as many years, and one could argue that Hellfire will be able to ride the coattails of both Liberation and Beyond the Apocalypse, since they fared reasonably well in the market.
Graphically akin to Liberation, this current outing of black metal proves to be fast as…hell. Blastbeats are thrown like spit from a lisper’s mouth – courtesy of the mighty Frost (Satyricon, Gehenna) – and Ravn’s necrotic vocals seethe with hatred. Here, 1349 obliterate the idea of slow, plodding black metal in favor of blinding speed; however, the production is crisper than, say, Beyond the Apocalypse’s and the overall audible presentation is less muddled than that of prior efforts. While I don’t have qualms with any of the musical performances – they all soar above talented and fitting – I must take issue with the lack of differentiation. In other words, this is black metal played at Ludicrous Speed, and there’s hardly a breather, which means it’s difficult to be riveted when songs begin to blend into one another with no regard for the consumer. I listen to the tail-end of a punishing song like “Celestial Deconstruction,” though, and I’m willing to recant my previous statements, almost. “To Rottendam” is way groovier, dude, than most of the other tracks on Hellfire, though the initial brunt of the record (“I Am Abomination,” “Nathicana,” and “Sculptor of Flesh”) may give you the wrong idea as to what the remainder of it will sound like. In what lends credence to my point, “From the Deeps” gently presses on the brake, but suddenly hits the gas and is off again. “Slaves to Slaughter” and the closer “Hellfire” (13:49 total to be exact) don’t vary from their earliest counterparts too heavily; “Hellfire” is longer, slower, and concludes with a lengthy instrumental passage, which is the catalyst for nightmarish reverie.
You probably know whether you like these guys or not. I shouldn’t have to tell you, but I will recap here a little bit. This is fast, unwavering BM that showcases a bevy of talent through various means. The Oslo-based 1349 do provide rousing music, which is angry and malevolent, though it becomes boring at times due to the sameness that permeates much of Hellfire’s timespan. I’ve heard this shtick done better and worse. At least this one is easier to get a hold of than most other records in the same stylistic vein, and with eight songs lasting upwards of fifty minutes, it’s a sizable portion of respectable black metal.