A failed experiment
This album marked the exact point where 1349 eschewed everything they had achieved with their previous 4 releases in favour of a drastic change to their established sound. I find this to be a potentially good manoeuvre as they’d taken their blast-filled style of old to its logical conclusion with Hellfire, yet at the same time I think it’s a risky one. As history has proven drastically changing style doesn’t always work for bands with a tried and true craft, because they’ve spent so much time perfecting one craft that a sudden shift often leads to a band playing a style they don’t care about as much (leading to a lack of energy and creativity for the style at hand) or know as much about because they’re newcomers to the style. This risk is amplified by the fact that the new sound displayed on this album is an experimental one, and as we know experiments by their very nature fail more than they succeed, as they’re a charge into the unknown. And it is with all this in mind that I have made up my mind on Revelations of the Black Flame – it is simply a failed experiment. It isn’t a forward thinking and innovative piece and it most assuredly isn’t their best.
As you may have guessed this is an experimental black metal album, with the experimentation being employed in two major ways – the heavy use of crawling dark ambient interludes between the black metal songs, and the unusually constructed, riffing with dissonant chords and an odd number of repetitions used during the black metal portions of the album. For what it’s worth though there isn’t that much that is ‘weird’ on this album; it is a marriage of droning dark ambient with slightly odd sounding black metal. One problem that can be gleaned from this is that these basic ideas are never taken to their conclusion; merely coming across as an aesthetic rather than part of an experimental core to the music. Everything on this album is for lack of a better word, standard. There isn’t a lot of thought or creativity put into this, it is merely an assembly of standard elements dressed up in an unusual way and comes across as shallow and trite. The album offers little beyond these basic elements and makes it very boring and unsatisfying to listen to, knowing that it could have been something more.
A bigger issue though is that the standard issue material at hand here is written in a lacklustre fashion. The songs are played with very little energy, instead being sluggish and droning in nature. The riffs are in fact the worst aspect of the album, because as soon as they come in the atmosphere set by the ambient sections is wrecked in favour of stilted and awkward black metal. Even worse though is that the songs take too long to get going and even at their most intense feel phoned in and tepid, as do the other performances. The pummelling battery Frost once delivered behind the kit is almost entirely gone, and the powerful and commanding voice of Ravn is now wholly irrelevant to the music at large, being simply some noise among the weak riffs and decent ambient. The songs themselves are flat and boring too – not only are they cut off at the knees due to the half-hearted performances but in general they lack a coherent structure or a satisfying conclusion of any sort, instead meandering for the majority of their respective running times and not achieving too much in the process. For songs that are so long, they never really manage to be memorable or have enough good ideas or structural intrigue to justify their lengths.
The whole album lacks any sort of fire or creativity, and at every turn reveals how poorly executed it is. From the structuring and pacing of the songs to the production right down to its very sound it doesn’t work all that well. The band simply didn’t try hard enough, which becomes apparent because while some individual sections are decent the album as one unit fails overall. The ambient parts for instance are good for what they are; if this were a purely dark ambient album it would at least turn out to be mediocre. As it stands though it is simply forgettable and awkwardly written black metal with some somewhat appealing window dressing, and while it isn’t worthless, it sure doesn’t offer much to a prospective listener. Whether this album turned out as it did due to a lack of knowledge or a lack of care when writing it, it stands as a great example of why experimentation isn’t always a good trait in music.