1349 isn’t exactly a band that does things unexpectedly. Sure, Revelations of the Black Flame saw them taking on more atmosphere and ambience, but it kinda sucked, so they quickly course-corrected to their roots. For the most part, the Norwegian stalwarts have been happy to blast, rip, and blaze their way through their career in the punchiest, most violent corner of Norwegian black metal. And for the most part, that approach has worked. They’ve never released a classic, but they’ve also been remarkably dependable in terms of overall riff quality and sheer ferocity.
The production is certainly a big part of that. There’s a clarity and crispness to this album that serves to enhance the already very thrashy sound they were offering on the previous album Massive Cauldron of Chaos. This sound ends up being perfect for both this set of songs and the band’s tight chemistry—Ravn’s vocals in particular are given extra throaty hate.
The songs themselves have just enough range to keep things flowing. At most times, things are focused on vicious, murderous intent. Opener “Abyssos Antithesis,” for example, has a super slick but still brutal bridge and a nice halftime part from Frost that serves to amplify the bouncing thrash of the riffs. “Striding the Chasm,” meanwhile, is six absolutely unrelenting minutes that go for the throat with a level of intensity typically reserved for bands like Tsjuder or Katharsis. Other songs inject a bit of dynamics by adding more tremolo melodies to the mean streak of the band’s general sound. “Deeper Still” transitions nicely from melodic material to thrashy and moody sounds, offering a feel of resolution in its chorus that feels earned, while closer “Stand Tall in Fire” does the extended “epic” build that nicely arrives at an extended solo section.
The only caveats should be as expected as (most of) the sounds. The record feels a mite long even at only about 44 minutes, largely due to the existence of three interludes and a song or two that meander a little awkwardly (not every transition works in “Towers upon Towers”). It also does next to nothing truly new, but you already knew that.
No one is listening to 1349 to get something new. Maybe that’s sad, and maybe it isn’t. The one time they tried something new, they kind of fell on their faces. Fans listen to 1349 for aural damnation and sheer violence, and The Infernal Pathway maintains their consistency in this department. It also has some nice callbacks to a deeper past than the past to which they’re normally calling back. It still isn’t a classic – at this point it seems highly unlikely that this band will ever deliver something that pushes them to the top tier – but hot damn, when it hits right it’s downright incendiary.