Album Review – The Infernal Pathway by 1349 (Season of Mist)

After 5 years of waiting, legendary Norwegian black metallers, 1349, are back with their brand new album, The Infernal Pathway.

The Infernal Pathway is their 7th full length and follows 2014’s Massive Cauldron of Chaos. That’s quite a wait for the new release but appetites were satisfied with the release of the Dødskamp EP earlier this year. You can read our thoughts on that EP here.

1349 are experts are what they do. They have tons of experience as a band and within the current members. They formed way back in 1997 and are named after the year the Black Death reached Norway. 1349 are a four piece. They are Olav Bergene (Ravn) on vocals with Tor Risdal Stavenes (Seidemann) on bass and backing vocals. Idar Burheim (Archaon) is on guitars and backing vocals and Kjetil-Vidar Haraldstad (Frost) is on the drums.

1349 The Infernal Pathway

The Infernal Pathway is around 44 minutes long with 11 tracks on it. 1349 are known for their traditional black metal style. Uncompromising, fast and heavy, they have the ability to lay weighty tracks down upon a listener, conjuring up images and feelings of darker times. That’s how it has been for the band on past albums and The Infernal Pathway is the same. Speed driven music utilising expert drumming and quick riffs combining with the snarled vocals create a heavy soundscape the envelopes the listener.

The opener, Abyssos Antithesis, lures you in with a catchy rock riff and quick drum taps before exploding into ferocity for a very traditional sounding black metal track. Through Eyes of Stone carries on the carnage with a speedy song with drumming that resembles heavy machine gun fire. The riff is awesome too, slightly lifting the thick cloud of despair the song draped over you.

After the quick fire double header intro, we get a short interlude. Interestingly it is called Tunnel of Set VIII. There isn’t much to it, just some atmospheric noises. Scene setting. Across The Infernal Pathway, we also get Tunnel of Set IX and X essentially splitting the album into three parts. The reason I say it is interesting is that 1349 have used this before, on their 2011 album called Demonoir. On that album we had interludes called Tunnel of Set 1 all the way up to VII. So, is The Infernal Pathway a continuation of a theme started back in 2011? It seems so though what lies at the end of the Pathway is yet to be revealed.

Back to the album and heaviness. It isn’t all speed for the sake of speed though. 1349 do expand using different tempos and styles, though sparingly. For me it is when they mix things up a bit that they really come into their own. The first real example of this here is Towers Upon Towers. A superb song that at first comes at you with typical force and foreboding. The riffs in the chorus switches a bit giving hints of something different coming. The drums and vocals tail off and the guitars bang out a bit of melody followed by a screeching solo before it all drops into rumbling riff with wicked drums. The vocals change to spoken word, almost chanting a prayer. The drums start growing in intensity before it builds back up again. Brilliant.

Deeper Still has some of my favourite vocals on it. I love the drawn out, singing but with growl style at the beginning. Striding the Chasm brings the intensity back with a viciously fast assault at the start. It retains the intensity throughout but hits you with sneaky little moments like a sudden drop into a grooving riff or an out of the blue guitar squeal. It keeps you guessing and that makes it exciting to listen to. The big ending comes with Stand Tall in Fire.

Over 8 minutes in length, 1349 have time to play around with and they do. What a song this is. There are slower tempo drums, mid tempo riffs and melodic guitars with spoken word vocals. It creates and desperate and intense atmosphere that rains over you. It’s a very expansive song. Very creative. The tempo changes constantly throughout. The drums suddenly rip out a thunderous storm, the vocals increase in speed and then the guitar peaks through the fury with a hint of melody that seems to calm the drums and vocals. It’s a black metal classic and shows 1349 as being a band that are much more than the speedy and heavy black metal traditionalist one trick pony they occasionally get labelled as.

The Infernal Pathway is a damn good album. Heavy and fast with its feet firmly rooted in traditional sounds. It’s heavy and it’s intense as you would want from this style of metal but the real win is when 1349 experiment a little. Some atmospherics, tempo changes and melodic guitars. This progressive edge to the band makes them stand out as something more. Something special. Songs like Towers Upon Towers and Stand Tall In Fire aren’t just the best songs on this album. They are up there with some of the best black metal songs written in modern times.

The Infernal Pathway is available now on all the usual streaming platforms. You can also grab a copy from 1349 here.

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The Infernal Pathway by 1349 (Season of Mist)
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