You can tell a lot about a subgenre of metal by how well the bands within that genre keep a schedule. For example, a prominent metalcore band recently left me hanging—paralyzed, even—while waiting for a phone call that turned out to never materialize. Black metal dudes, on the other hand, are wildly efficient. I mean, they kill people and burn churches and sometimes get away with it; they have to be pretty precise. When 1349 vocalist Ravn calls me, he’s right on time, or so I think. He apologizes for calling late; I look at the clock: he’s three minutes behind schedule, which, considering it’s a phone call from across the world, is more or less right on time.
“Well, I like to be punctual,” he says. And he’s totally serious when he says it. (When I chide him about having to do interviews at 11 p.m. his time, he says, totally seriously, “It doesn’t matter. I can be awake at any hour of the day. There’s no problem.”)
That sense of brutal efficiency is all over 1349’s fifth album, Demonoir. The disc finds the band moving over to Prosthetic Records for North American distribution (they are signed to Norway’s Indie Recordings), and it also finds them picking up the pace after a slightly more, uh, relaxed outing last time, last year’s Revelations Of The Black Flame (relaxed within the confines of black metal, that is; it still wasn’t exactly easy listening). The heavy material on the new album is where the music naturally went, says Ravn (pronounced Raven), adding that the current lineup has been playing together for 10 years so the chemistry is really hitting that sweet spot.
“In many ways it was easy and in other ways it was extremely hard,” he says of the album. “Because what we see now is that everybody in the band feels very strongly about the music, and how it should develop. Discussions about how to see the recordings and how the songs should develop has picked up a lot, and if we don’t agree on things, there are big discussions. I like that. It shows that people have an opinion and they grow attached to the material and the band.”
“It gets the band growing together,” he continues, “and it turns into this force that’s bigger than all of us together and everybody’s focused and the force that is 1349 can outdo all of us. Everybody knows this. The force has to be as big as possible, and as serious as possible, and that’s why everybody’s fighting for it in its own manner.”
Creating a force with as much intensity as 1349 is a pretty scary thing to have to deal with, as Demonoir proves. This is pure black, no synths, no slick production, just raw and uncompromising. Yes indeed, 1349 is its own force, but it’s a monster, one that, seemingly, could crush its creators. But Ravn says he’s not scared. (Black metal fans might be scared of the appearance by Tony Caputo, ex- of Canuck pomp rock band Lynx, who lays down some chilling piano here!)
“Oh, no, it’s very natural,” says Ravn of the beast that is 1349. “When we get it right, everybody knows that it’s right; it’s the way of getting there that’s not always the easiest. But [when we get it right] it’s a great feeling. The four of us as a band have been together since 2000, so, ten years. Me and the bass player [Seidemann] have been playing together since ’97, when the band started, and Archaon joined in ’99, so we have some years together. It helps with the development of the band that we can challenge each other and know where we have each other, so we can get the most out of the whole process of creating an album.”
The band worked very closely once again with producer/metal legend Tom Warrior (TRIPTYKON, ex-CELTIC FROST) for this disc, and the result of the metallic mentoring is an album that, with increased distribution, will likely find 1349 being appreciated by black metal fans and… black metal fans. Ravn’s only kind of joking (yes, black metal guys do joke sometimes) when he says his band needs “special treatment” from their record label. He chuckles at his wording, but the serious part is that a label needs to understand that a black metal band is not like other bands.
“Black metal is not for the masses,” says Ravn. “Most people are not ready or able to deal with the mindset and the emotions that you need to be in touch with in order to understand and to appreciate an art form like black metal. So it needs, in a way, a special treatment.”