Finally, Black Metal season! A lot of Black Metal musicians comment upon the atmosphere of a forest or grand landscapes and how they feed into their music. This might seem like a bit of a ludicrous statement to many but it’s one of those notions I really agree with. Black Metal is probably one of the few sub-genres of Metal that demands a certain setting. Watching Black Metal bands in the blazing sun at 12:00 in the afternoon at a festival isn’t exactly what you want. However, take that festival to a forest and have all the bands play at night and then you’ve got the right ambience.
Purveyors of the true are Oslo hailing Black Metal traditionalists 1349. Formed in 1997 their influence has been felt throughout the world. A genuine ‘true Norwegian Black Metal’ act with purpose, might and history behind them. Alas these traits wouldn’t be fully recognised the world over until the release of the band’s debut Liberation in 2003. From here the band have garnered great praise namely through 2005’s Hellfire or 2014’s Massive Cauldron Of Chaos. Now in 2019 we enter the age of The Infernal Pathway, the bands seventh full length released through the ever reliable Season Of Mist.
If you’ve never heard 1349 you could be forgiven for mistaking them as Thrash or classic Heavy Metal from the introductory riffs of Abyssos Antithesis. Then in come the hideous rasps of vocalist Ravn and suddenly all becomes apparent. This is old school, pure Black Metal done right and paying homage to the greats of the Metal world in general such as Venom, Sodom and even Mercyful Fate. The Tunnel Of Set interludes placed periodically throughout the release serve to build some sort of atmosphere, a touch needless but none the less welcome. I say needless for the beauty of 1349 is in their no-frills approach. This approach is highlighted again through the harsh Thrash heavy riffs of Enter Cold Void Dreaming, the sort of traditionalism that is so lacking in bigger Black Metal acts these days. Then more Blackened Mayhem-like riffs are clumped into the fantastic Towers Upon Towers, coupled together with the Thrashy approach.
Deeper Still lures us into the second half of this album with further vigour and Black Metal fury. I’ve always been rather struck upon the speed of 1349 and The Infernal Pathway certainly doesn’t disappoint. If you like relentless Black Metal that is somewhat polished but at its heart raw then this is a release for you. Striding The Chasm even enlightens us with some hook heavy lyrical delivery, a strong track that is sure to become a firm favourite among live sets I’m sure. Perhaps most surprising however is lead single Dødskamp. When this track first debuted I was captivated by it but in comparison to the rest of the album is one of the least exciting moments. Then finally we come to the close with Stand Tall In Fire which is a pretty big track. It encapsulates the traditional Heavy Metal, Thrash and Black Metal flare to bring us a sonic wall of intrigue and innovation that still remains classic and old school.
I have a great deal of praise for this album. Sure, it can get a touch tried and tested at points and the memorability factor may not be strikingly high but musically it is a powerful tome. Arguably it is one of the better records I’ve heard from 1349 and to bolster this I feel it is a perfect starting point not only for the band but also Black Metal as a genre. If you’re looking to get into the genre or maybe have even lost sight of it then perhaps you ought to take a trek down The Infernal Path!
(8/10 George Caley)