1349 - Massive Cauldron of Chaos - (7/10)
Published on September 16, 2014
Neither massive nor chaotic…
If the headlong dive into ambient esoterica on Revelations of the Black Flame and, to a lesser extent, Demonoir, was 1349’s attempt to rid themselves of the “that other Norwegian black metal band with Frost on drums” tag then Massive Cauldron of Chaos serves as a statement that Ravn and co. no longer have such scruples, as this album is nothing if not a very conservative back-to-roots affair. Well, for the most part anyway…
With nary an ambient interlude in sight, Massive Cauldron of Chaos hearkens back to the sound and style of yore but it is not a complete re-tread of Beyond the Apocalypse and Hellfire (the latter remains the band’s coup de grâce as far as I’m concerned). Though the basic elements are intact – lots of tremolo picked riffs, Ravn’s trademark hissy rasps and Frost pummelling his kit into next week – the songs are composed in such a way that the oft neglected melodic dynamics of their sound now occupy an equal footing with their more feral side. The result is a more balanced effort overall but with an attendant drop in intensity as a less welcome side-effect. Massive Cauldron of Chaos is not a mellow album by any stretch of the imagination but there is a definite sense of measured restraint at play here, though you’d never guess it considering the face-tearing qualities of “Cauldron” and “Godslayer,” that bookend the album in Marduk-friendly fashion that recalls the speedy exploits of yore. That said, the tracks sandwiched between the aforementioned throwback songs largely see the band eschewing unbridled aggression in favor of slightly more restrained and riff-driven material that variously dabbles in old school Teutonic speed metal (“Slaves”), equally archaic Hellhammer-like rhythmic chord slamming (“Chained”) and even a quasi-throwback to the sweeping melodies of Satyricon’s classic “Mother North” on “Mengele’s.”
“Slaves” is no doubt a special track, imbued as it is by both primal grooves as well as sporadic bursts of jangly melodies that almost give it an ‘artsy’ dynamic. Another surprising aspect is the increased focus on melodic leads, with the solo sections on quite a few tracks bordering on downright flashy (albeit in a black metal context, of course). It’s all quite entertaining but I cannot deny that the unhinged ferocity of their early material is sorely missed on here and the band’s decision to fall back on 80’s-style speed and groove elements causes the album to feel overly safe at times – a bit disappointing considering they had four years in which to craft this album. On a strictly formalistic level the structural integrity of the album is beyond reproach, as is the musicianship, but after a four-year wait I simply needed a little bit more from 1349. As it stands, Massive Cauldron of Chaos is a workmanlike affair but hardly essential listening.