Let's compare Hellfire, 1349's third full-length album, to a professional dominatrix or a horror movie. Just as there are different approaches in metal, there are different approaches in S&M and horror. There is the dominatrix who favors nuance and offers some hugs and caresses along with her whips, chains, and riding crops; there is, on the other hand, the domme who goes right for the cat-o-nine-tails and immediately inflicts as much pain as possible. There are nuanced vampire movies of the '30s and '40s that leave much to the imagination; there are the Jason and Chuckie bloodfests that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. And when it comes to death metal/black metal (more black metal than death metal on Hellfire), 1349 is clearly the headbanger equivalent of Chuckie rather than Barnabus Collins (the nuanced vampire on Dark Shadows) and the cruel, consistently harsh dominatrix rather than the kinder, gentler dominatrix. Oh, the kinder, gentler dominatrix still knows how to crack her whips when she feels it's appropriate -- and the Scandinavian bands that are considered symphonic black metal or melodic death metal will never be mistaken for Enya. But they value nuance and melody as well as forcefulness. You won't find nuance on Hellfire, however; like 1349's second album, Beyond the Apocalypse, this 52-minute disc is a long way from the more intricate death metal/black metal and goes right for the jugular. No ifs, ands, or buts -- Hellfire is the sort of extreme metal that leaves nothing but bloody destruction in its path and absolutely delights in doing so. Hellfire isn't any less predictable or one-dimensional than Beyond the Apocalypse, but these Norwegians are obviously good at what they do -- and Hellfire, limitations and all, does nothing to hurt 1349's reputation as masters of skillfully vicious sensory assault.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson