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1349 - "Demonoir" (CD)

1349 - "Demonoir" CD cover image

"Demonoir" track listing:

1. Tunnel Of Set XI (1:33)
2. Atomic Chapel (6:25)
3. Tunnel Of Set XII (1:01)
4. When I Was Flesh (5:45)
5. Tunnel Of Set XIII (:40)
6. Psalm 777 (5:42)
7. Tunnel Of Set XIV (1:03)
8. Pandemonium War Bells (7:49)
9. Tunnel Of Set XV (1:16)
10. The Devil Of The Desert (6:30)
11. Tunnel Of Set XVI (1:05)
12. Demonoir (6:19)
13. Tunnel Of Set XVII (3:54)

Reviewed by on May 25, 2010

"1349 sounds absolutely rejuvenated and angry, as if somebody just stole their corpse paint."

There was no bigger disappointment in metal last year than 1349’s “Revelations of the Black Flame.” After a four year wait, instead of toxic black metal, 1349 decided to experiment with ambience. Extended sections of boring mechanical noises, coupled with poor production, made for an agonizing listen for all the wrong reasons. Hints of the old flame were there in “Maggot Fetus…Teeth Like Thorns,” but the band sounded unsure of what to do with their new direction.

What a difference a year makes. 1349 learns from the error of their ways with a return to the dark side on “Demonoir.” Drawing a balance between their ambient side and their black metal roots, the album is a compromise for those who stuck their noses up at “Revelations of the Black Flame” for not being brutal enough. Each blackened tale is accompanied by a cold, bleak instrumental; the two sides of the band switch off flawlessly, making for a singular piece of music.

A lot of complaints about “Revelations of the Black Flame” came from the fact that the integration of sound effects with black metal was poorly done and only weighed the album down. That is not the case with “Demonoir,” as the band lays off the heavy-handed ambient sounds on the black metal tracks, reserving them for the short interludes that make up a bulk of the album. Save for a subtle grand piano solo in “Atomic Chapel” and the outro to “The Devil Of The Desert,” it’s nothing but muted, sharp riffs and bustling drums.

1349 sounds absolutely rejuvenated and angry, as if somebody just stole their corpse paint. The raspy vocals have a sickening tone, while Frost wakes up from the deep slumber he was in on the last album and pounds away on the skins like the drummer black metal fans bow down in praise to. “Psalm 7:77” and “When I Was Flesh” are ruthless numbers, a throwback to the “Hellfire” days that will resonate loudly with long-time fans. The title track doesn’t get out of second gear, but its slow tempo and splintering riffs are a nice change of pace from the endless barrage the rest of the album engages in.

“Demonoir” has six great slabs of black metal, but on the opposite spectrum, has seven tracks of mediocre interludes. Some of them work well in the context of the album, like the soft acoustic playing on “Tunnel Of Set XIII,” but the rest of them don’t have much context on their own. In the grand scheme of things, they work well in connecting the album together and are less distracting than they were on “Revelations of the Black Flame.” They can be skipped, but that leaves the listener with only about 30 minutes worth of material, making the album seem more like an extended EP than a LP.

No lame Pink Floyd covers, seven-minute songs that take four minutes to go anywhere, or extended yawn-worthy interludes; that already makes “Demonoir” a major improvement over “Revelations of the Black Flame.” Is “Demonoir” as good as the trifecta of albums released by 1349 from 2003-2005? It gets close at times, but the album doesn’t live up to what the band did on “Hellfire” and “Beyond The Apocalypse.” Thomas Gabriel Fischer (Celtic Frost, Triptykon) does a great production job this time around, giving the music the bite that it was lacking on “Revelations of the Black Flame.” 1349 fans who were worried that their last album was an ominous sign for the future should breathe easy, as the band takes measures to get back to their lovable evil selves on “Demonoir.”

Highs: Return to the black metal roots, Frost's drumming, ambient sounds regaled to the interludes.

Lows: Too many interludes that have no individual appeal, seems more like an extended EP than an LP.

Bottom line: 1349 returns to form on "Demonoir" and proves that their last album was nothing more than a slight misstep.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)