Since 1997, 1349 has evolved a lot. And I mean a lot. They’ve changed so much that their musical career can only be compared to driving down the freeway at 70 miles per hour and hitting black ice. First, you accelerate along the on-ramp (Liberation and Beyond the Apocalypse), until you achieve top speed (Hellfire). When you come upon the ice, it sends you into uncontrollable spins (Revelations of the Black Flame) that you miraculously manage to steer free from. From there only the occasional patch causes some gentle fishtailing (Demonoir) as you speed down the road. While there are fans of 1349’s latest experimentations, there’s no denying the broadside Revelations…had on its die hard fans (this writer being one of them). So how does the road look ahead for 1349? Will they dive deeper into the blackness and weirdness of their latest albums or will they turn back to the chaotic frenzy of their days of yore?
The answer is (of course) none of the above. Instead, 1349 has chosen to take advice from the friendly trucker at the roadside café. When you begin to fishtail, your only option is to drive faster. At first glance, the album title and artwork make it immediately apparent that 1349 intends to push the envelope again. When you line up all their albums of reds, oranges, yellows, and blacks for comparison with the white of Massive Cauldron of Chaos, you get the sense that Ravn and company are giving you the finger. More than ever, this album suggests to all listeners that it is futile to assume you know what 1349 will do next. And while Massive Cauldron of Chaos is a stupid title, there really is no better way to describe what lies in these eight tracks (nine, if you get the Voivod cover). This is basically a stew of ingredients of old and new, with a variety of their favorite influences and blackened sub-genres mixed in for spice.
“Cauldron” opens the album with some classic 1349 aggression and savagery; nothing new here, just solid 1349. After this warmup, things really get interesting.“Slaves” utilizes everything from black-thrash to a midsection Bathory-like interlude, to some Demonoir spoken word segments. Frost’s assault is devastating on the ears and Ravn spews forth his classic raspiness (even though his vocals are layered here with the same stupid effects as in Revelations…).
“Exorcism” expands on this formula with some modern Darkthrone riffage, Watain-like atmosphere, and even some soloing (a better solo can be found in“Mengele’s”), while the kickass “Postmortem” showcases Archaon shredding some early Slayer and Toxic Holocaust thrash (checkout the badass riff at 2:30). But the real standout tracks are saved for the end of MCoC. Not only is the spine of “Chained” tapped by a black ‘n’ roll gavel, but it also pleads guilty to riff thievery from Satyricon’s “Mother North.” It also utilizes some Enslaved-esque atmospheric textures and the bass lead by Seidemann is stellar. Similarly, closing track “Godslayer”is all about modern Enslaved (as well as a little Volcano-era Satyricon thrown in for good measure). Ravn belts out “gawwwwdslaaaayeeeerrr” with the kind of urgency only Grutle could make convincing. Even though the song is a little repetitive, it brings order to the Chaos before signing off for good.
Massive Cauldron of Chaos is definitely another transition in the 1349 sound and will inevitably split the fanbase again. However, MCoC is perhaps the most mature of the 1349 discog. Not only is it a crisp 38 minutes, but it sports a magnificent DR8 production. The dynamics open up the album beautifully, allowing the chaos to be both warm and accessible. The punishment that the bass and drums bring to MCoC would be completely lost with a louder production.
While initially shocking, this new direction seems obvious when compared to hints laid in Demonoir tracks like “Psalm 7:77” and “The Devil of the Desert.” Unfortunately, a lot of this has been done before and it lacks that originality and impact of their earlier work. But if you’re looking for some of the old speed and chaos of early 1349 – with a few twists – this album is for you. [But why do they look like the Baseball Furies from The Warriors? — Steel Druhm].