Grab your shit and hold on or “Hellfire” is going to smash you while on its whirl wind path of destruction. After a much underrated sophomore effort in “Beyond The Apocalypse”, Norwegian Black Metal merchants 1349 come back strong again with a battering assault of eight tracks of sheer devastation. Forget all the BM geeks who will decry its sell out of some by-the-rules Black Metal bullshit standard. This chunk of Metal hums with power that never surrenders its violent, arse-kicking advance.
What I like about “Hellfire” is that it maintains the caustic, frenzied sensibilities of Black Metal but also has a far fuller sound and mix than what is often considered the genre’s bedrock aesthetic. Fine by me, as I can do without the “no bass allowed” post on the pathway. From the first track onwards, “Hellfire” is simple but gripping. Batter the fuck out of shit but keep a good sense of structure around the songs, even inserting some Death Metal leaning chords (“oh god no” the corpse painted followers decry!). Besides the last track, the album also steers clear of the over wrought use of ambient or “creepy” passages again often used in Black Metal. Nope, music is what gets churned out here and some fucking good slabs of it too. “Sculptor Of Flesh” is a highlight, opening with a receded yell and then coming full on with a cool finger tapped riff in unison with the crisp ping of a racing ride cymbal.
But, this kind of aggressive, balls out commitment is all over the album. This is Black Metal I like; it’s got chunky sections, ice cold laments and nothing but crippling Metal written and played all over it. To Hell(fire) with the purists, this is an album well worth checking out…over and over. (Online April 23, 2006)