Vinyl VVednesday: 1349 – The Infernal Pathway
Norwegian black metallers 1349 graced the world with their seventh full-length The Infernal Pathway on October 18th, 2019. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of most black metal, but their fast-paced—often thrashy—take on the genre really hits the sweet spot for this listener. The music itself is stellar, a welcome addition to the 1349 discography; alas the packaging brings with it some nitpicks. Set your turntable to 45 rpm and let’s delve into the details.
The first thing which stands out is how the tracks are arranged: four sides on this double LP, each with two to three tracks. As mentioned earlier, it does run at 45 rpm, a puzzling decision as the total runtime is less than 44 minutes (meaning it all could have easily fit onto one record). Not only will the package cost a few extra dollars for the additional raw materials required for the second record, but now I have to get up off of my couch four times to listen to the album in its entirety. (If anyone reading this understands the decision to run at 45 rpm—versus the usual 33 rpm—feel free to sound off in the comments.) I’m not quite sure if this is a minor gripe or a major one; thankfully, the quality of the music itself helps heal this wound.
Side “1” starts off with a fast-paced, uniquely structured song called “Abyssos Antithesis” that features a frenzied guitar solo similar to the one heard on “Psalm 7:77” from their sinister 2010 release, Demonoir. The guitar solo is a staple not overused by 1349, and so each one feels like a treat. Next is “Through the Eyes of Stone,” the first single released and a great indication that this record is going to be an improvement over the pretty-good Massive Cauldron ov Chaos. The bizarre yet catchy riffs during the chorus remind me of some of the better songs from Hellfire.
Moving on to side “3” (get it, because 1349) we are given a short segue titled “Tunnel of Set VIII” that continues a pattern used on Demonoir to break up the individual movements. Then two more relatively short bursts of fury let us know that the band has no intention of slowing down, combining breakneck riffs and heaps of double bass drumming (Frost is unarguably a beast behind the kit, something that even a non-fan would admit). The musicians keep their respective feet planted firmly on the gas pedal for most of the album’s runtime, only slowing down for the finale “Stand Tall in Fire,” a trait that may turn off some listeners but gives me great pleasure.
Side number four starts off with “Tunnel of Set IX” which then leads into the solid (although not incredibly memorable) “Deeper Still.” But to cap it off, they have given a us true gem in “Striding the Chasm:” an incredibly fast song, one that also features a thrash riff solid enough to make a Riff ov the Week competition featuring riffs of that genre. Flipping it over for the final side is the mid-paced single “Dødskamp,” the idea of which was to be “part of a collection of four tracks spanning multiple genres commissioned by the Munch Museum in conjunction with Innovasjon Norge and Visit Norway.” One final interlude stands in the way, and then as I mentioned before it’s the only time this band really slows down with album closer “Stand Tall In Fire”.
1349 has achieved something great with The Infernal Pathway: they’ve found a way to recapture some of the best bits and pieces of their entire discography and compile them into a single package. There’s the eerie, atmospheric interludes picking up where they left off from Demonoir, thrashy and head-spinning riffs like those found on early records, and the catchy yet concise songwriting employed on the recent Massive Cauldron ov Chaos. It may sound cliche to make the following claim, but I’ll go ahead and do it: The Infernal Pathway feels like a sort of “greatest hits” catalog by 1349, and one that can be ranked pretty high in their discography. It’s probably not their best material, but that’s a very high bar that they’ve set in the past.
The glossy packaging (with included lyrics) is simply gorgeous, as is the warm but organic production of the music. The artwork is fantastic, and I should look on the bright side of it being a gatefold double LP which means more room for more of it. On an hilarious side note, I have on occasion left my turntable on the “33 rpm” setting and discovered some oddball doom/black record, before which I’ve never heard…but then I remember that this album is the exception—not the rule—and I correct the mistake and hear some kick-butt black metal. The Infernal Pathway is terrific, and will be awarded 4 out of 5 emoticons (“rill gud”):
Check out the whole thing on BandCamp. They have links for physical copies too.