Well, ladies and gentlemen, as if it weren’t already obvious, it’s now official: Kjetil Haraldstad (a.k.a. Frost) is not a man. Not a normal man, at least – he’s far too great for that – he’s more like some kind of god (if he isn’t one, then I don’t know what he is!), and if there’s a better drummer out there, mortals probably wouldn’t survive listening to him.
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.