1349 and the cauldron of magic potion

The musicians from 1349 (a year that went down in History because of the Black Plague pandemic) are way more refined and perfectionist than their brutal, uncompromising black metal would lead you to think. But although they did play hardball in the early years of their career, they have lately demonstrated a certain interest for experimentation. Even if their latest album, Massive Cauldron Of Chaos, released last year, goes back to aggressive, straightforward, concise music, there are still a few melodic surprises here and there that give a special luster to this black metal opus. It’s quite obvious the band worked long and hard on it to reach “maximum quality”, as guitarist Archaon likes to point out in the following interview.

But 1349’s refinement doesn’t stop at metal; they also apply it to beer, the kind you drink for pleasure, like a good wine, not in order to get wasted. The guitarist also talks about this passion and about the 1349 beer, created in part by the musicians themselves.

« We have a lot of chaos in 1349 [chuckles], the way we function is controlled but life in itself is chaotic. »

Radio Metal: You recently said you took everything from what you did previously and refined it for your new album. How did you do that concretely?

Idar « Archaon » Burheim (guitare): Basically, four years have passed since Demonoir and we needed to evaluate how we felt and go deep into the material to create the new album correctly. With all the different ingredients that we’ve had in 1349 up to this day – because we’ve used a lot of different angles to achieve our art -, we felt that the new album should be maybe a bit more in your face, direct and focused. We feel that we succeeded very much with that on this album. So the songs are a bit shorter, with more songs than the previous album, a more regular album structure, a more classic setup with guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and a bit more classic rock approach to the actual recording but with a very obscure 1349 concept behind it.

Was it important for the band to rethink your way of writing songs in order to not to repeat yourselves?

To a certain extent. But it’s always important to evaluate ourselves, because we feel that we’re the best ones to evaluate our own art. We know what we want to achieve. Demonoir had traces of more experimental elements in it and I must say that this album probably features the most technical approach that we’ve ever had. So we felt that we did it with a bit different conceptual approach to it. Now, the new one has a little bit of that but also a lot of the more traditional songwriting style, with more straight forward songs. I feel it’s still very much 1349. It’s a more contemporary 1349. So, in terms of songwriting, it was definitely something that we were thinking about during this process. It took us time to get everything right but we wanted to reach total quality before accepting to put it out, if you know what I mean.

Is this why it took you four years to do this album?

That’s first and foremost the main reason for that, of course, but also I would say that it’s a natural thing for a band that plays so much live as we do. Since we released Demonoir, we did a US tour with Cannibal Corpse, we did another US tour with Triptykon, we did another long US tour with Marduk, we played all the European festivals, and also in the mean time we had other projects going. And all of this is on top of each and every one of us four individuals having our own lives. So yes, that naturally takes a lot of time; it’s time consuming work. In between we composed, rehearsed and evaluated the new album. And we have the project of creating our own beer coming! [Laughs]

Would you say that four years is a good time span to gain hindsight on your previous work?

It’s just that we don’t want to compromise on time. We don’t want to hurry to put something out. I know that the industry now expects a band to release an album like every year or two, but that doesn’t mean that that’s what we should do because when we release something it has to be at maximum quality. So that goes before anything else in 1349. And this time we had so much going that it ended up taking four years. But I don’t think, if that answers the question, that we’ll take another four years for the next one. We’re really on a good dynamic now, so I think it’s going to be shorter for the next one.

This new album is called Massive Cauldron Of Chaos. Is this a metaphor for what you wanted to do musically: putting all the craziness and energy that the band is capable of into a cauldron in order to produce this insane melting pot of music?

Yeah, you’re pretty much spot on there. That’s definitely one way that you can view it. It feels like a really good description of the process in which Massive Cauldron Of Chaos was created. And it also sums up the band in its entirety. We have a lot of chaos in 1349 [chuckles], the way we function is controlled but life in itself is chaotic. So we felt that the title and the description are very suiting for the band, for us as individuals and especially for the process that led to this new album. And also, the album in itself has got all of the different elements, everything from A to Z, pretty much summed up in one album. So it’s a good description for that that people can read into and get the feel of the total experience of this album.

We can hear inspiration from other types of metal than black metal in your music, like thrash metal in the song “Slaves”. Can you tell us more about your relationship to those genres?

It’s not the first time; we’ve always had bits of thrash metal, death metal and heavy metal elements. These are all different kinds of subgenres that we’ve been into over time, but our feet have always been planted in black metal. I guess that with this album you can definitely hear more traces of these genres, especially with thrash metal because we wanted to make it a bit more of a classic metal approach, a bit more of a heavy metal album, with a bit of 70’s background layer, as much production wise as composition wise. It always has to be in one common package and we felt like doing like this, this time around. We are all inspired by a lot of thrash bands. For example we previously did an Exodus cover (note: “Strike Of The Beast”). We also did a Celtic Frost cover (note: “The Usurper”). We’ve all been into death metal bands like Morbid Angel or Possessed and also all the big thrash metal bands: these have inspired a lot of black metal albums over time. Personally, I’ve been into early Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, all the early bay area thrash – most of the band have been into these bands. We feel that this is where a lot of the good thrash metal came from. It has the same kind of aggression, brutality and darkness that we have in our music. German thrash too, like Kreator: I know that Frost loves Flag Of Hate, the early stuff, and I like a lot what they did up to Coma Of Souls. Kreator, Sodom, Pestilence from the old days… It’s an interesting approach to try to entangle these with today’s blacked thrash angle. And with the structure of our entire album, I think this was very much the right way to go. Besides that, the feedback that we’ve got is really, really good. People are very happy with it.

You declared about this album that it really carries the mark of conviction. So what was your state of mind to achieve such spirit?

It’s first and foremost the band’s spirit as a whole. With our albums we get a feeling of how it’s supposed to be. Sometimes it could be more epic and open soundscapes but this time we thought we should keep it more structured within certain frames that we set ourselves, of course, to create something a bit more hard hitting and direct. We’ve experienced quite a bit with a lot of our later works, but with this one we wanted to sum it all up, package it and have a very direct approach.

« You don’t have to be wasted on beer. It’s more about the taste of it. There’s so much more to beers than just these straight forward boring lagers that we usually see. »

It seems like slavery is a strong theme in the album with songs like “Chained” and “Slaves”. Can you tell us more about that?

We’re far from being a political or religious band but from an anti-religious point of view, yes, when it comes to our art, we’re definitely talking about the slavery that religion is, but it’s more of a poetic approach. We have a lot of dark poetry in our lyrics, so it’s more of an artistic point of view, like a deep dark horror movie. We approach these subjects in a way that we feel is suitable. It’s about the religious slavery that we see in all those narrow minded religions that lead your life for you, and that’s definitely not how we lead our lives and existence ourselves.

You always use the term “art” instead of “music” when you’re talking about the band. Do you think that the band is more than just music and can we expect you experimenting with other forms of art?

As we usually say: expect the unexpected. We don’t set limits. One form of art leads to another but in the bottom line, we’re doing music, 1349 is a musical band. But as we’re ourselves interested in arts and we meet a lot of artists, this is something that inspires us a lot as well. You can meet good painters, good sculptors or any interesting artists with different frames of mind than you, it’s always interesting to see how you can cooperate and how you can meet artistically. So to put a frame on ourselves will only limit ourselves to doing only what we’re expected to do. We’ve had painters that we appreciate who did covers for us and we consider ourselves somewhat lucky to be able to work and have a cooperation with – in our eyes – big artists. They’re not necessarily big artists but they’re good at what they do. As long as it holds the required quality level, then we see no reason as to why we shouldn’t stand behind it.

The production of the album sounds very natural, almost raw. Was it the intention to have a very authentic sound?

That’s very true. This time we wanted to achieve that kind of sound. We came in knowing what we wanted. Frost was very interest in trying out early guitar sounds, like how to bring the sounds that Bathory had, the sharpness and extremity in the guitars, to mingle that with a very organic drum sound, with an overall 70s vibe to it. He had a lot of 70s references, like Black Sabbath and all of these good old bands. I’m a lot into that myself too: Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, etc. We used old albums from the seventies as some sort of benchmark to get that kind of organic sound but doing that with our own music today. And we didn’t want to limit our sound to the MP3 format; we did it for those who are interested in good hi-fi sound. It’s interesting to see that we can try to get the best of all worlds combined. So that’s what we were trying to obtain: the maximum quality with the whole album, the writing, the arrangements, the sound… We rehearsed it to get everything perfect and then when we went into the studio we got everything on top. And we also decided to try something different this time: we flew Jarrett Prichard – who’s been our sound engineer live since 2008 – from the United States to produce the album with us. He did an extremely good job. I mean, he knows the band so well, from a personal point of view as much as musically, that he knows how to get the best result out of us. I think that we succeeded very much with that.

I saw that you planned to release the album as a cassette…

Well, yeah, Season Of Mist is doing that, but I’m don’t think Indie Recordings will do it. If there’s an interest for it, then why not? We’re very much into vinyl, that’s what we always preferred ourselves as a format because I believe that you get the best sound with it. But it’s also about how people take the time to listen to the music. For some reason we’ve also been approached by another label in the United States, called Witch Sermon, and they did a cassette for Demonoir, and now Season Of Mist wants to also do this for our new album, so it’s great. We prefer the labels to have all the old formats, you know.

You mentioned it earlier: you started to produce your own beer with the band. How did you get this idea? Do you have a special relationship to beer? Are you passionate about this drink?

Oh yeah, we’re very much into it. All of us of us in 1349 are really beer enthusiasts. Frost got the idea in 2010 when he showed us this beer place in Norway. We got to taste a lot of really good stuff. Also in 2010 we met with the Surly Brewing Company in the US. Frost and I were in Minneapolis and we met the head master brewer of Surly, he was at our concert! [Laughs] He came over and congratulated us for our concert in Saint Paul, Minneapolis. He said: “My name is Todd Haug” and he gave us his card, which was basically a coaster, you know, what you have under the glass when you drink. So we started talking beer right away and found a mutual interest for making a good beer in connection with a brewery in the United States. We also found a cooperation partner in Norway; we have some of the two best breweries there. So it’s basically a collaboration between Surly, Lerbig and 1349 to make the recipe for a beer. We directly made a beer together with them, it’s not just a name on the bottle, you know. We were directly involved with the ingredients and how the beer was composed.

And what kind of beer is it?

We’re going to make two beers. To start with, there’s going to be a 1349 Black Ale. It’s going to be very powerful, something like a dark black IPA with hints of imperial stout, a powerful dark beer but with a good twist to it that represents 1349. It’s going to be an extreme beer, just like our music [laughs]. And also we’re going to have a pale ale that will be called Pale Horse. It’s going to be a blonder beer but more like a pale ale, almost on the border line to an IPA. It’s also going to be with a sort of 1349 twist with a sharp edge, just like our music too.

And what is your favorite beer? Apart from these ones, of course…

I’m into many sorts of beers but I’m really into the Darkness beer from Surly, Pentagram from them is really good too. From Belgium you’ve got Duchesss de Bourgogne, very good beers… It depends totally on the country we’re in as well, because there are so many good breweries nowadays. Beer has really gone up these last years.

Beer had for a long time this image of just a cool way to drink and get wasted but now it seems that it’s coming back to a drink that we can taste and enjoy just for what it is, like a good drink…

Yeah, exactly, I totally agree with you. It’s something in connection with a total experience, when you eat food or when you relax. You don’t have to be wasted on beer. It’s more about the taste of it. There’s so much more to beers than just these straight forward boring lagers that we usually see. I mean, there are good lagers out there too but most of it is just the generic big breweries that we get everywhere, and that turns out to be somewhat boring. So it’s a good evolution for beers.

Interview conducted by phone 24th, August 2014 by Metal’O Phil.
Retranscription, traduction and introduction: Spaceman.
Promo pics: Jorn Veberg.

1349 official website: www.legion1349.com.

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