Slightly more accessible but as malevolent and foreboding as ever
Even though there are plenty of people out there who, like me, thought 1349’s previous effort, Revelations of the Black Flame, was absolutely awesome, the overwhelming swell of negativity that was projected towards the album from reviewers and message boards alike practically guaranteed that for their next effort 1349 would be taking a different approach. Thankfully, however, the band didn’t capitulate and bow to the demands of the loud-mouthed and the whiny and instead present us with Demonoir; an album that is just as dark and unyielding as Revelations of the Black Flame was but also treads an arguably less divisive line between the band’s vicious black metal past and their more experimental present selves.
Like Revelations of the Black Flame before it, Demonoir features heavy smatterings of dark ambient material, but this time around it comes in the form of the seven part Tunnel of Set, with each of its parts serving as an introductory piece to the six “real” songs on the album. The interesting thing about Tunnel of Set is that, even though it is spread out across the album and broken into individual tracks, it is titled chronologically with a Roman numeral suffix (the first piece starts at XI and the last finishes at XVII) which means that the pieces should, theoretically, fit together in some fashion. When the tracks are combined and listened to sequentially as a whole you are presented with a dense dark ambient piece that is full of chilling sounds and haunting atmosphere. Whether this is what the band intended is open to debate but it is interesting nonetheless. Irrespective, however, the individual parts also serve their other, more obvious, purpose of leading into the black metal sections of the album very well.
The black metal side of the equation is a good balance between the band’s early and contemporary sounds and is likely to be more palatable to those that were left by the wayside with the band’s previous effort. The suffocating, claustrophobic atmosphere that was such an integral part of Revelations of the Black Flame is still ever-present and is helped in no small part by the production which is quite similar to that of its predecessor but, musically, 1349 has attempted to bridge the gap between their two distinct musical periods and has, perhaps, offered a small appeasement to their fans, though I seriously doubt the gesture would even come close to silencing the deafening roars of the band’s “true” fans because Demonoir is still unmistakably a product of modern day 1349.
As with Revelations of the Black Flame Before it, I find Demonoir to be more of a mood piece than a strictly musical body of work. Yes there are great riffs and excellent drumming throughout the album (as well as some unexpected moments of brilliance like the piano during The Devil of the Desert or the guitar solo in Psalm 7:77) that are enjoyable in the traditional musical sense but it is through the album’s dense and unrelenting atmosphere that I derive the most enjoyment from what I’m hearing. Love them or despise them, I doubt anyone could argue in good faith that 1349 don’t know how to create an intimidating and all-encompassing atmosphere these days.
My guess is that if you absolutely hated Revelations of the Black Flame then there is every chance that you’re going to hate Demonoir as well, though perhaps with less vehemence. I think it’s pretty clear now that the blistering black metal band that 1349 once was is now gone and the 1349 that experiments heavily with their black metal and explores the cavernous depths of dark ambient sounds is here to stay and I couldn’t be happier about it. That there are bands out there like 1349 who aren’t afraid to break out of the mould and try something different is a massive win for the genre as a whole but when they are able pull it off like 1349 have done with Demonoir it is nothing less than a triumph.