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Formed in 1997, 1349 features vocalist Ravn, guitarists Tjalve and Archaon, bassist Seidemann and drummer Frost. Their Candlelight debut, Liberation, was released in 2003. Returning in 2004, the band recorded Beyond the Apocalypse. With Hellfire, a priority for for Candlelight through 2006, 1349 are sure to open their already respectable fanbase. 2005.
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Frost displays his talents throughout 1349's exhilarating new album, 2005's "Hellfire." He goes absolutely berserk on his trapkit, and continuously beats each drum into tiny pieces as he drives these eight tracks with his legendary "all blasting, all the time" approach. Needless to say, it's a truly astounding performance on Frost's part, and one that must be heard to be believed.
Meanwhile, guitarist Archaon unleashes a floodgate of scalding tremolo riffs and propulsive, Slayer-inspired leads, and vocalist Ravn spews forth his wicked lyrics with an ultra-evil, venomous, and abrasive (yet somewhat intelligible) rasp that's tailor made for making the listener's skin crawl. Make no mistake: 1349 are not a melodic or symphonic black metal band - they are real, unadulterated, and mercilessly brutal black metal, straight up! Every song oozes with exhilarating, palpable energy and grindcore-worthy ferocity that by the time the album is over, you'll swear you saw a puff of thick, black smoke coming from your C.D. player.
"I Am Abomination" motors full-speed ahead out of the starting gate. Archaon creates an ominous-sounding wall of searing guitar noise, but it's Frost's walloping, machine gun blast beats that's the main focal point here (in fact, his drumming is so fast on this song that he comes dangerously close to trampling the guitar lead.) The fairly melodic tremolo picking on the next track, "Nathicana," allows the music to breathe a bit, but the next track after that, "Sculptor of Flesh," is a scorching onslaught of savage, thrashed-up guitar shred and furious drum battery. Other notable tracks include "Celestial Deconstruction" and "To Rottendom," which (aside from Meshuggah's 2004 EP, "I"), boast some of the best drumming this writer has EVER heard; the somewhat restrained (but no less intense) sixth track, "From the Deeps" (which begins and ends with eerie, chanting voices, and also features a mini guitar solo); and the epic, entrancing title track that draws the album to a close.
In short, "Hellfire" is easily the best black metal album of 2005, and it's also doubtlessly one of the genre's finest, and most satisfying works since Mayhem's landmark "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" was released way back in 1994. "Hellfire" is a near-perfect example of what all pure black metal should sound like: Extremely evil, uncompromisingly intense and brutal, creepy to the bone, and hotter than all the fires in Hades combined. Thus, all self-respecting metalheads (including newcomers) should definitely make this disc apart of their collection as soon as possible. Just make sure you remember to douse your speakers with Holy Water after you're done listening.
Their name is the year the plague hit Norway, and their music is just as ominous, destitute, and evil as their name suggests. "Hellfire," much like their previous release "Beyond the Apocalypse," is a blisteringly fast edition to the stripped down yet hauntingly beautiful catalogue of black metal bands such as Immortal, (old) Darkthrone, and (old) Emperor. The musicianship on "Hellfire" is staggeringly skillful. The drumming is both mind numbing and creative, and, like the guitars, never lets up. The songs are well written, an attribute that should not be overlooked in a genre of music so difficult for the average listener to approach. Even though the band never stops its assault, the listener is able to navigate through each song with little difficulty. Do not expect any orchestration such as one might expect on an Emperor album. Like I said, 1349 is stripped down to the bare essentials: buzz-saw guitars, near-constant blast beats, and demonic shouts and shrieks. Still, I maintain that through buried melodies and a haunting ambiance the band creates a unique sort of beauty, the type I feel black metal does so well. The beauty of despair, if you will.
The recording is thin, keeping in line with black metal tradition, but it is clear that serious effort was undertaken to yield a clear recording in which all instruments are audible and balanced. The drums walk a line between having a machine-like quality and a raw, organic feel that is made all the more dramatic by Frost's ridiculous, inhuman skin work. I don't know what the process of recording was like for this album, whether, like Vital Remains, the band pieced together each song, or, more traditionally, whether each instrument simply recorded their parts for each song, but I wouldn't be surprised if "Hellfire" was cut and pasted. If this is not the case, how Frost manages to keep such consistency and speed is beyond me.
If black metal is your thing, you simply must get this album. If you like grindcore, bands such as Pig Destroyer, Gadget, or Leng Tch'e, then this is probably still up your alley. While I have yet to listen to the album start to finish in one sitting, mostly because it's just too damn intense for that (or because I'm not intense enough), I have not been disappointed by any track on its own, and I rank this album as one of my favorites of 2005.
And they are. Hellfire is raw, fast and black. Raun spits violent vocals over an onslaught of drums and guitar. The vocals are perfect for this genre or sub-genre or whatever the hell. 1349 are definitely not symphonic in any sense of the word. They are all about blasting.
Frost is ridiculous on the drums. I've listened to Satyricon (mostly the early stuff) and I never knew this guy could shred like this! Holy crap! Tons of blast beats.
This album is raw, but well produced. It's not muddy and the vocals are pretty clean, which is good because nothing kills an album like this faster than a muddy production job. On the other hand, some metal (especially black metal) can be over produced and "neutered". This isn't Trivium. Hellfire will definitely make you wanna hop in your car, grab your favorite axe or long sword and scream bloody death down the nearest interstate at about 100 miles an hour.
Standout tracks in my opinion are:
I am abomination
Sculptor of Flesh
All in all, an awesome disc. Tom G. does have good taste.