Musically and visually, Oslo's 1349 have roots deeply implanted in the second wave of Norwegian black metal. Their sound, complete with buzzing (rather than roaring) guitars, abundant blastbeats, Satanic lyrics, unclean vocals etc., is appended by ghastly corpse-paint, leather, spikes, fire breathing, and more on-stage. Early recordings, such as Liberation, and Beyond the Apocalypse, were drenched in lo-fi production, but won fans due to a sometimes-overwhelming physicality and aggression. Though hardly prolific -- they've issued less than ten albums in 22 years -- they are one of the few surviving entities from the era who continue releasing material and touring, while remaining -- with only two exceptions -- close to their sonic and aesthetic origins, as evidenced by 2014's Massive Cauldron of Chaos.
1349 took their name from the year in which the black death epidemic arrived on Scandinavian shores. Born in 1997 from the remains of black metal quartet Alvheim, 1349 featured vocalist and drummer Olav "Ravn" Bergene, guitarist André "Tjalve" Kvebek, and bassist Tor Risdal "Seidemann" Stavenes. Second guitarist Idar "Archaon" Burheim would join two years later, in time to perform on 1349's second demo (titled "Chaos Preferred") in 2000, and the ensuing eponymous 2001 EP, which established the band's sound as a single-minded throwback to the devastating style of black metal that made Norway the movement's focal point in the early '90s. 1349 made another connection to that seminal period when they recruited Satyricon drummer Kjetil Vidar "Frost" Haraldstad -- to allow vocalist Ravn to roam free on-stage -- which contributed to the band's burgeoning reputation both as players and as performers, thanks to the usual black metal accoutrements. A trio of career-affirming albums followed, namely 2003's Liberation, 2004's Beyond the Apocalypse, and 2005's Hellfire, paving the way for a U.S run (with a different drummer since Frost was denied entry due to a criminal record) supporting the reunited Celtic Frost, and a few years of dedicated touring and major European festival appearances. In 2006, Tjalve left the band to pursue other projects. After several years off, 1349 got back to the business of recording via 2009's Revelations of the Black Flame album. It marked a radical departure in their sound. Produced in partnership with Celtic Frost icon Thomas Gabriel Fischer, he replaced much of the band's old-school black metal with slower ambient and semi-industrial sounds, outraging most fans. The band added guitarist Secthdamon for the purpose of touring. The following year's Demonoir, with only the original quartet, made only token efforts to redress the situation (with numerous atmospheric pieces sprinkled amid the more typical black metal songs) and further polarized 1349's audience, leaving many unanswered questions as to the band's future prospects. Secthdamon returned as a touring member in 2016, and remains part of the live outfit, as does drummer Nils Fjellström, who replaces Frost for U.S. tours. After four years of working on concert and festival stages, they returned to the studio and issued the Dødskamp EP in April of 2019, followed by a second EP in August, Through Eyes of Stone. Both recordings were back-to-basics affairs and were greeted by fans with enthusiasm. That October 1349 released their seventh full-length, The Infernal Pathway. Engineered by Jarrett Pritchard, the set contained guest lyrics by Kenneth "Destroyer" Svartalv, (Nocturnal Breed's bassist/lyricist S.A. Destroyer) on all but one song. The album was celebrated by critics and fans alike as a welcome return to traditional form. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia