What happened??? Revelations of the Black Flame (Candlelight, 2009) has nine tracks. Four are ambient interludes. One is a six-minute intro. One is a Pink Floyd cover. (Evidently Americans aren't the only black metallers indulging their "psychedelic influences.") The three remaining tracks are metal, but two mine a sort of blackened doom. ("Serpentine Sibilance" is basically a slow rewrite of "Nathicana" from Hellfire.) That leaves one track sounding like 1349. Once synonymous with balls out black metal, they have gone soft.

Exploration is fine. Hidebound music like black metal needs it. But 1349 don't even seem to like exploring. Mired in ambient fluff and sludginess, they sound tired. Black metal is music of dedication. However monochromatic earlier efforts might have been, they exuded dedication — to speed, intensity, and making the most of limited ingredients. As later Satyricon albums show, drummer Frost is more suited for high speeds than low ones. When he gears down, he plods, with little sense of groove.

The sad thing is, this record shines sometimes. The ambient interludes are sometimes interesting. Riffs are more memorable now, partly because there are so few of them. But this record seems thrown together with no regard for momentum. Intro, metal, interlude, metal, interlude, metal, Pink Floyd cover, interlude, interlude — this type of excess is normally reserved for hip hop. Was this record a contractual obligation? No songs from it are on the band's MySpace. Do they realize it's a dog? For an interesting take on the record by Tom G. Warrior, see here.

- Cosmo Lee

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