December 9, 2014 1349 – Massive Cauldron of Chaos (Album Review)
A step back can sometimes be a step in the right direction. Norwegian band 1349’s sixth and latest offering, Massive Cauldron of Chaos, celebrates a return to their true black metal roots. Formed back in 1997, 1349 are one of the second wave of black metal’s most respected bands over the course of the years. Consisting of Ravn (vocals), Seidemann (bass), Archaon (guitar), and Frost (drums), the band now bring an album that is as “kvlt” as one can sound without sacrificing production quality for the “true” black metal naysayers. The texture of Massive Cauldron of Chaos has a blended sound of quality vocals, slightly lo-fi palm-muting and furious blast beats that can be discerned from one note to the next. In fact, this could very well be mistaken in some spots as a remastering of earlier Mayhem songs. The guitar work primarily focuses on rhythm as a driving force and lives up to black metal’s expectation of just doing one’s own thing; not being too flashy about it and being consistent.
The opening track “Cauldron” is a furious anthem of chaos, blast beats for days, and palm-muted fret wandering galore. This song sets the tone for the entire album; structured but chaotic. It is easily identifiable as black metal, and there are no doubts whatsoever. The word “gestalt” shows up, a 19th-century German psychological method that focuses on seeing things for what they are, or the idea that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This track is only a taste of what the rest brings, and it brings pure Norwegian black metal.
Later on in the record one of the tracks that will catch the eye based on title alone is “Mengele’s.” There is something to be said about black metal’s occasional relation to fascism, particularly Nazism, so this one is hard to nail down. Lyrically it’s more of a perception of what a dinner engagement would be like at Josef “Angel of Death” Mengele’s home, referencing his “godless science” and insanity. The song ends with the line, “This wickedness knows no boundaries, dark insight – So inhuman and so cruel,” which could be viewed as damning his evil notions. This is not the first time a band has referenced the sadist intentions of this mass murder so context and intent are unclear, but that does not necessarily mean it is a track of praise to his twisted genetic endeavors, but more of a historical interpretation of an infamous figure.
Next, “Golem” is perhaps the track that sounds most like the ’90s inspired Black Metal songs that are near and dear to fans of the old days. Fast and furious three-chord opening, a pick slide and relentless blast beats. The song’s lyrics centers around a clay-man creation known as the Golem, a monster in Jewish lore, who is a creation of religion and cannot utilize free will. “I needed to protect you, so I threw down the book”, a parallel to departure from religion to save one’s self and others and remain uncorrupted.
Closing out Massive Cauldron of Chaos is one of the best tracks of the offering titled “Godslayer.” It opens up with distorted lo-fi drums, and feedback laced with crunching guitars and releases pure amazingly produced aural hellfire. This sounded like Emperor, or at least the listener may mistake this album for it at times musically. The interesting thing is the lyrics of this song end with the line “the morning star that on the dawn of the black hearts.” Ring a bell? Dawn of the Black Hearts was the infamous 1995 live bootleg album from Mayhem with the cover photo of its deceased singer, Dead, after his self-mutilation and subsequent suicide, which as taken by the guitarist Euronymous. There is no doubt that Mayhem is a definitive influence on Black Metal’s progression from its early terminology creation and usage by Venom and evolution to the sonic assault it has become. A respectful mention of the legion’s fallen icon that true fans of the genre can appreciate, and others would overlook.
Those who investled in the digipak edition of the album will be treated to a bonus cover of Possessed’s “The Heretic“ from their 1986 album Beyond the Gates. Originally released on All Hallow’s Eve of 1986, this song is a perfect choice for the band to pay homage to the evil of one of America’s purveyors of the thrash to death evolution. Seriously, the cover is spot on down to the thrash vocals and really shows that black metal was a stylistic choice for the band, not a predetermination.
Massive Cauldron of Chaos is not exactly the new gospel of church burnings, but it is something that has the Scandinavian 1990’s Black Metal scene written all over it. It is like Burzum, but features more rhythm guitar work, better sound quality on the vocals, and no bad press. The progression from death to black metal was common in the 1990’s and for those fans of 1990’s Norwegian Black Metal, Massive Cauldron of Chaos is definitely a must listen. CrypticRock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.