1349- Massive Cauldron of Chaos

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, September 25, 2014

1349 is one of those bands that I have found to be a bit hit or miss over the years. Their first three albums were unrelenting, blasting black metal that delivered one burst of intensity after the next, but I found them to be repetitive by the end (especially the almost hour long Hellfire). 2009’s Revelations of the Black Flame attempted a good deal of experimentation and ambient passages, but ended up leaving me fairly bored. Demonoir did a better job of merging ambient elements with harsher black metal a year later, and made it clear that 1349 could move beyond their constant blasting in favor of more versatility. But even so, they’ve never reached that point where I’ve returned to the material on a regular basis after reviewing it. This year’s Massive Cauldron of Chaos might just change that, as it finds the group delivering some of their familiar blasting with a black/thrash edge. It’s one of the shortest albums they’ve written in over a decade, and with an emphasis on strong leads and zero filler this is a release you’ll want to give multiple spins.

Massive Cauldron of Chaos runs for about 37 minutes, and it’s the shortest full length the group has put out since Liberation back in 2003. The ambient interludes have been dropped in favor of lengthier songs that span between four to five minutes, and the conciseness of the recording works in 1349’s favor. One of the issues I’ve had with some of their previous albums was repetition, as the all-out blasting had a tendency to drag over time. This time around the instrumentals blend together the aggressive blasting the band is known for with a heavy dose of black/thrash, which is most evident during some of the shredding guitar solos. What I noticed the most as I made my way through the eight songs was the strength of the leads, as it’s far easier to distinguish one track from the next than ever before. “Godslayer” and “Slaves” are perfect examples of this, as while they start out with very familiar riffs and drum patterns once the chorus kicks in the hook is there to keep listeners coming back. Admittedly some of the other songs do blur together slightly, though when 1349 doesn’t quite have a chorus that grabs you they make up for it with some absolutely killer solos. There have been more individual moments that have stuck with me as I listened to Massive Cauldron of Chaos for the past week than I anticipated, and the seamless movement between thrash and traditional black metal plays a significant role in this.

Ravn’s vocals have always been one of the highlights of 1349’s material, and this continues to be the case. As the group has gone for slightly more modern production values in recent years and embraced a clearer sound, the vocals have moved to the front and are no longer buried underneath a sheer wall of sound. Massive Cauldron of Chaos once again emphasizes Ravn’s harsher screams add to the intensity of the material, though compared to some of the other vocalists in his genre the way he enunciates gives the group a bit more accessibility. It’s a performance that I think will ultimately feel familiar to anyone that has spent time with 1349’s back catalog, but that’s not a bad thing as the vocals have always been consistent when it comes to the level of energy and impact that leave on the listener.

It may not quite stand out as one of the best black metal albums I’ve heard this year, but Massive Cauldron of Chaos is definitely close to that upper tier and has been an album that I have found myself wanting to give just another spin over the past few days. In some ways 1349 has played it safe, scaling back the experimentation and ambient elements from their previous two records and returning to the chaotic, blasting black metal they were known for in the past. But the increased focus that is on display and hint of thrash gives this one considerably more substance and may just surprise some listeners who hadn’t been as into this band before. I went into this one expecting to like it but ultimately move on to something else, but so far it’s had real staying power and is proof that these guys are still quite capable.

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