As soon as the demonic yell of "Hellfire!" announces the beginning of 1349's third full-length album, something immediately tells you that Norway's upper-tier black metal horde has come of age. There's a confidence and stylistic presence on "Hellfire" that sets it apart from its worthy predecessors, "Liberation" and "Beyond the Apocalypse". As the twisted riffs and machine-gun drumming of SATYRICON's Frost (is this guy really human?) on "I Am Abomination" begin, the band's scorched earth policy ceases only when the 13-minute inferno hymn of the title track is complete.
Vocalist Ravn is among several of the album's weapons of mass destruction, his vocal style abrasive and ripping, yet brought forth with a fuller, slightly more intelligible delivery this time. His grasp of patterning and nuance surpasses anything done on the prior two efforts. Let's not kid ourselves though; these are relative descriptors. His attack has all the subtlety of the projectile blood vomiting afflicting the infected humans in "28 Days Later". It's the way the jagged and jutting riffs of guitarist Tjalve and Archaon lambaste the listener such unforgiving cruelty that goes so well with Ravn's spells of hellish rage and Frost's drum battery, lifting these songs out of the abyss and into the mortal world to wreak havoc. "Sculptor of Flesh" is one of several examples of an approach that chokes with primal savagery and tramples the weak underfoot with thrashed up riffs. A more epically evil atrocity is committed on "From the Deeps"; no less intense, but with a (relatively) controlled pace and smothering application. You'll swear you saw thick, black smoke and smelled burning flesh before it's all said and done.
Cutting to the chase, 1349's "Hellfire" is one of the best pure black metal releases of 2005. Frighteningly sick and hotter than Hades, "Hellfire" may very well leave you incapacitated and covered with third degree burns.