Many fans of modern pop culture are aware of Black Metal, in the same way people who never enter the wilderness are aware of things like grizzly bears. They have heard about them. They may even know a fact or two about them, but the truth is unless they have studied such things in their own habitat, on their own terms, the full depth and breadth of their stature cannot truly be grasped. 1349, hailing from Oslo, Norway, has been in existence perhaps not quite as long as the genre’s progenitors. Nonetheless, they began their career within hailing distance of those fiery origins, and like their countrymen, continue to manifest the wellspring of creative dark energy lurking behind the dense soundscapes and black and white imagery.
Recently, founding Vocalist Ravn and long-time Guitarist Archaon, who are currently blasting their way across the United States and Canada along with their American peers in Uada and Cloak, sat down to chat to shed some light upon their new record The Infernal Pathway, their reverence for art, Black Metal, and more.
Cryptic Rock – 1349 began back in 1997, at a time when Black Metal was rapidly becoming known more for symphonic productions and less about the sonic and thematic brutality that started the genre. Then you guys come along. Did you view 1349 as an antidote to this trend? If you did, did you ever expect the band to achieve such success and be going strong over 20 years later?
Ravn – This is the main reason for starting the band, because I didn’t like the way that Black Metal was turning at the latter half of the nineties. I didn’t like the symphonic, more Goth direction, basically, that it was going. That’s what I always loved about Black Metal is that the grimness and brutality that’s in that music and basically the mood that it gets me in. Those synthesizers were just too pompous. It didn’t give me that sort of grimness. You know, I mean if its properly orchestrated, it can give you a grimness at some certain levels, but not that Black Metal grimness. Instead of just sitting home complaining about it, I found people that had the same thoughts and ideas and we formed 1349, and went on from there. The length of the project was never something that I had in mind. So let’s just see how long it goes.
Cryptic Rock – Your hard work and stamp on the genre is much appreciated by your fans. 1349 just released its seventh full length album, The Infernal Pathway. Can you talk a bit about the formation of this monument to ferocity? What was the writing process like for the album?
Archaon – It started out with me writing some templates and aspiring ideas and going from there, you know. Presenting them especially to Frost (Kjetil Haraldstad – drums), then we toy around with it in our rehearsal space. After a while we have a somewhat streamlined version of the song, the skeleton of the song. An understanding of what we want the song to be, as Ravn said earlier on. The primal essence is very much essential and crucial to each and every work in its own way. So we are very much quality-orientated and very internally quality secured as a unit. When the song is done, I tend to either record it on my phone or sometimes trouble the band to record it on the computer and we go on from there. We would rehearse this and make it as optimal as possible.
Cryptic Rock – Does the band all live near one another?
Archaon – Yeah, we all live in the same town apart from the bassist (Seidemann). He used to live in Oslo but he has since moved up to his own county.
CrypticRock – Excellent. So, as a band that has carried the flag of true Norwegian Black Metal into the 21st century, you have generally been a straightforward, blistering entity of speed and aggression. Nevertheless, 1349 has shown a penchant for experimentation in sound. Would you say that following these impulses to do the unexpected is actually the true essence of Black Metal? Not caring what everybody thinks and just doing what you want?
Ravn – You cannot care. If you’re going to make an album for the fans then that wouldn’t be true first and foremost. That wouldn’t be true to the fans because the fans love the band for what the band does. Those are the true fans and fans should be challenged as well. If you leave fans in a comfort zone that they always know what they’re going to get. That just gets boring, you know? We have to challenge ourselves, and if you can’t stand that then 1349 is not the band for you. I mean there are a million bands out there, so find another band.
Cryptic Rock – It seems a lot of people out there who do not make music can be the most judgmental towards bands with this attitude.
Ravn – People are entitled to their own opinion.
Cryptic Rock – Sure, but these are the kinds of people who believe artists are supposed to stand still forever. True art cannot stand still. Would you agree?
Ravn – Well these people who admit stuff like this are people who don’t have artistic integrity themselves, you know. They don’t know what it takes or how to move on, how to kind of do different things, and how to challenge yourself. They just want to take the easy way out and spill their guts on the internet.
Cryptic Rock – For example, Cryptic Rock has been working on ‘Best of the Year’ album lists and some people actually comment that I ‘forget’ certain titles in my own list!
Ravn – (Laughs) Write your own list!
Archaon – I would rather see people contribute something of their own then just drag everything down.
Ravn – That’s the worst about the social media generation now. It’s like if you don’t have anything to say to people, you don’t shut off, you just say something. Then everything just gets to be noise, you know? It’s just out there on the web, clogging up the pathways.
Cryptic Rock – It’s insane. So taking into consideration the expansion of your sonic palette, The Infernal Pathway and 2014’s Massive Cauldron of Chaos seem like they take the extremity of the first half of your career and the experimentation of your mid-period, and meld it into something that almost combines the two. Is there a connection there or are you guys just writing what you feel you want to write at that moment?
Archaon – It’s interesting that you mentioned that. To a certain extent, the correct answer is no. I mean we don’t tie up in what we have done. You know, when you leave one chapter you move on. But having said that, at the same time, I find it very important to know where you’re standing. That’s where we always underline that we belong in Black Metal. That there is an integral part of our music and our art. And so many bands diverse too much off of that complex. I can see that’s going to be confusing as well. I mean that’s what you appreciate, but you know in the end, it’s something new. That’s what we walked out with, but it’s still new in terms of our music.
Ravn – But you also have, you cannot forget what you have done and you also have to look back so you don’t copy yourself. So it’s a new chapter as I said. But you also, you have to, you always have to look back on what you’ve done before and see if this works. This is what you want to bring with you to the future. But then you have to up it, you have to take it to the next level. That’s what is all about. You have to progress as a musician. That’s how you also build progress as a human being. That’s how you go through life. Go through life through progression, not regression. Like which is if you go down the religious path, which is the cultural regression.
Cryptic Rock – Sure is, excellent. So earlier this year you guys were selected to write music inspired by Edvard Munch. What was it about the painting Dødskamp, ‘Death Struggle’ that spoke to you? Did the theme of the painting fit into your overall vision for The Infernal Pathway or was it separate?
Archaon – Well, the framework of this was given by a guy we know involved in the Munch collection in Oslo. The respect for this person was there from the start and it was interesting to hear about it. Then, when we deliberated on the subject, we found it very interesting to dive into something like that and we discussed it internally and ended up with a mutual way to approach it. Then we started working on that. But the only framework given was that we had to work it in time for his 100 year anniversary. Otherwise we were free and that is something that suits a Black Metal band. You know, you’ll always have someone slagging things off. No please, don’t do that. Never mind.
I mean this is all a very open challenge where you can create something on the basis of his paintings. Me having grown up with a lot of Munch in my life from my parents, I remember the very first time I saw the picture, the day thereafter, I could see a lot of this fear and anxiety in it. The older you grow, the more you understand that picture in different ways. That is one of several pictures of him. One thing that’s not in every picture of his, but in many, he’s got incredible darkness. Munch had a lot to contribute with which could be translated to dark music.
Who would be better than us through a process like that? Well, there were three other artists, which included genres like Electronica and Folk. That just makes it more interesting because if you have something that’s easily available for everyone, there should be something that is not easily absorbed by the majority. That’s a very interesting position to put us in. Also, to have a purpose or duty to challenge Norway’s majority of people because Munch, he is partnered with everything national in Norway. Everybody stands up for Munch and appreciates his art, so to be at any point involved with him in an artistic way. It’s very, very fascinating.
Cryptic Rock – Awesome. The ‘Tunnel of Set’ interludes return on this new album, with their last presence on 2010’s Demonoir. What is the significance of the progression of numbers on this album? Why are we seeing their return now?
Ravn – When we made the album and recorded all the songs, we felt that some of the sequences of the songs on the album were kind of laid out in such a way that some of the songs needed some connections to kind of, to make the flow of the album go together in a much more correct way to kind of make the album whole. Then it’s like, bring back some tunnels. We need some tunnels to bleed into these songs to kind of connect this album, make it a unity.
That’s why they returned and it’s like that. We just continue with the tunnels. It’s already there. It’s a known fact that people would know it from before. So they will either love it or hate it. But they will know the purpose of it. It takes you from that part of the album to your next part of the album. Guides you from one song to another. Instead of going back to back and some song can be, you can put two songs that are very different and not necessarily it is something that would fit very well after each other. But if you have the tunnel in between, you can make . . .”
Cryptic Rock – Give it a little room to breathe.
Ravn – Right, as well, because you get that breath. The album gets bigger in a way as well because you get some other noise in there that kind of takes it a little bit away from you. And then, I mean, if everything’s just being in one blast going from one end to the other, you wouldn’t even notice all the speed as well because it’s just like revving a car really fast. If you don’t, you don’t notice the speed that you’re going in… Slows you down a little bit and then pulls you back out.
So this is the effect of the tunnels are going to have. It’s a transition from one song to the other. Since we already established that concept with Demonoir, we wanted to bring it back. Thought this was the perfect opportunity and we didn’t want to put it in between every song because all the songs work really well together. Then some songs goes perfect with the tunnels.
Cryptic Rock – So you have been there through the evolution of Black Metal going from this total underground, feared phenomenon to where it is today. It’s grown, it’s even grown beyond Satanism. Do you think there is Black Metal without even the loosest interpretation of Satanism present?
Ravn – Black Metal to me has always been very personal. It basically comes down to, it gives me a feeling. When it comes to the topic of Satanism, I have always considered Satan to be a rebel. So if that’s the context that I’m… I’m somebody that does not believe in God, so I don’t take to claiming myself to be a Satanist. Which will also be that I believe in the Bible or biblical script, which I don’t. But I believe in the rebel. The one that stands out from the set society and the one that dares to stand out. And that is the Satan. That is the rebellion.
That’s always something that’s spoken to me. So in that context, I think that we very much maintain the Satanistic pathways. But it’s mainly, it is a mind job and it’s harvesting the powers that’s in your mind. That’s where you can find it. That’s where it go… The key to everything you can travel with inside your mind. Basically like you meditates and you don’t have to believe in anything other than yourself, basically. That’s the true power.
Archaon – Individualistic.
Ravn – That was the thing from the beginning. That’s what I remember Fenriz saying way back in the 90s when he was really drunk and he was sitting at the table at a party smashing his fists. “Individualism! Individualism!” (Laughs) I was like, yeah, that’s fine. That’s what it’s about, I’m like “that’s not true. It’s a scene” or something. “No, it’s not a scene. It’s individualism.” They’re all individuals. But we became something united out of it because it had a united feeling. It created a united feeling but the people that made it are individuals. That’s the strength of it and that’s why it makes it so unique as well. It’s not a common force that comes out of it. It’s a force that comes from all angles, it comes from every side of it. That’s the chaotic force.
Cryptic Rock – That’s a very elegant explanation. Thank you. One last question. As this website is also concerned with Horror movies, what are your favorite films from that genre?
Archaon – I always said The Omen (1976). Both one and two. As well as Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Like from the old classic time. But I also can get addicted to more and more sadistic stuff. Saw (2004), which I find intriguing to an extent. Particularly one, two and three. I was looking forward to get home from the last tour because number seven was in the cinemas. So I was very basically running right to the cinema when I got home from touring to see that Saw movie.
Ravn – I’m not a huge Horror fan. But with the Saw movies, I find them to be stupid. It doesn’t give me much. I’m more into the classics. So like The Shining (1980), stuff like that. The mind games. But it’s mostly… I enjoy beautiful cinematography. Obviously what Stanley Kubrick did was beautiful in that way. That always helps a lot. To have a Horror story on top of that it takes the whole thing to another level, you know? What he did and the effects that he did with what he had to work with are amazing.