1349 is one of those black metal bands that traditionally relied heavily on speed, abrasiveness and chaos. 1349 still incorporates all of those things in their latest release The Infernal Pathway, however, the Norwegians also add a great deal of finesse, and more straight-forward songwriting. In this respect, The Infernal Pathway sounds closer to their brilliant 2014 record, Massive Cauldron of Chaos and less like their earlier, more ambient work. However, fans of both eras will certainly be pleased.
Massive Cauldron of Chaos is, perhaps, one of the greatest black metal records in the past 20 years. It’s fierce, angry, aggressive, yet also expressly well-crafted and approachable. It has some heavy thrash influence and is recorded with a clarity that allows the listener to truly appreciate all the unique sounds and rhythms within the chaos the band has always been known for.
The Infernal Pathway appropriately follows Massive Cauldron of Chaos. The band ventures even further from their earlier lo-fi and raw sonics to a fuller, richer and thicker sound. And this transition allows the band’s musicianship to really shine here. Guitarist, Archaon really takes his playing in new directions. We got lots of layers of guitars and more traditional sounding solos and leads.
It’s not just the guitars that stand out here. It’s also the rhythms. We all know Frost is one of the greatest drummers the world has ever seen and while he’s famous for playing extremely fast, we see Frost introduce some new sounds. Take for example the opening track, “Abyssos Antithesis.” It’s definitely Frost, but that last minute or so he changes up the cymbals without really affecting the time. You can also literally feel the physicality of his playing in that song (and others) as he uses every available ounce of energy to create those sounds.
“Through the Eyes of Stone” and “Enter Cold Void Dreaming” are going to please the most ardent 1349 fans. Just incredible riffing here with Ravn’s signature vocals.
“Stand Tall in Fire” is the track on this record that’s going to really turn some heads. In this song the band slows things down just a bit in the first few minutes. The slower tempo allows Ravn a bit more opportunity for inflection and detail in his voice and that really grabs you. Of course, five minutes in we get a full on thrasher, and rather surprisingly, some pretty intense shredding from Archaon. While 1349 isn’t generally known for their guitar solos, given what’s demonstrated here, they might want to consider this a bit more. I love the thrash metal elements this band has been incorporating as of late – it’s as if they really evolve the sound of the genre and push it further than most bands area able to.
Overall The Infernal Pathway features 1349’s signature aggression, but this time in a more nuanced fashion. The musicality and the songwriting with a more cogent attention to detail really shines here. In this respect, this record will please both long-standing 1349 fans but at the same time proves accessible to those first really getting into more extreme sounding metal.
The Infernal Pathway releases October 18. You can order it in various packages here.
1349’s US tour launches October 25. See you there!