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rather weak - 48%

Cheeses_Priced, August 31st, 2004

The first song is the best one on the album – the opening riff is very nice and there’s a weird keyboard (?) effect that’s very eerie, and a little later in the song there’s some very nice intertwining guitar melodies. An above-average slice of black metal to be sure.

But… already one begins to sense that something might be amiss. Four measures of this, eight measures of that, transitions that are abrupt but come exactly where one would expect… a certain feel of predictability, tameness behind the savagery. An unfortunate rockish feel to the songwriting, in spite riffs which are an unabashed tribute to early-90s Norwegian black metal sensibilities.

And not just the riffing. Weakling have taken care to adhere to proper black metal convention in most every level of their aesthetics: the vocals are delivered in a harsh high-pitched scream, sometimes recalling Varg Vikernes, the riffs tend towards simple, over-distorted high-pitched sawing, the production is awful… you’re familiar with the sound. They even follow the style of melody very closely, for the most part. But Weakling is a band with progressive aspirations, and augment all of these traditional elements with some very capable lead guitar playing (not really actual “solos”), clean guitar segments, very lengthy song structures (the five tracks run seventy-six minutes), and some ambient sound. This is surely somebody’s idea of the ideal black metal style (witness the clueless reviews from the indie scene hosted on Tumult Records’ website).

But it seems to me that they really got the whole thing backwards, if anything. All of those obvious things – the buzz saw guitars and screeching – they don’t really count for much by themselves – they’re certainly not intrinsic to the style. If anything, I’d trade all of the “progressive” elements here in for a more original melodic sensibility and general aesthetic… that would surely be more creative than taking all the stereotypes of an existing sound and “upgrading” it the way Weakling do (marking themselves as followers in the process). The attitude seems to be that all black metal music really represents is a surface aesthetic… a vocal style, a guitar sound, a particular style of melody… really, those were always relatively arbitrary things, not at all worth trapping under glass and worshipping for their own sake. The brilliance of good black metal is (was) in the design sensibilities and songwriting behind the grand gestures.

Weakling lets me down a bit there, as I alluded to above. I like some of the individual riffs and melodies, but the songs as a whole tend to meander or feel like slideshows of riffs, or just get into useless repetition… it never really comes together and feels like a unified whole, or gets the larger-than-life, more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts ambient feel of the best black metal. Actually, a lot of it seems rather aloof to me, like a replication of emotion rather than the real deal. If you want the straight truth, I just find the album boring.

Anyway, in spite of a few attention-getting qualities that make it stand out among contemporaries, I wouldn’t give an unqualified recommendation to this. Decent, even rather interesting at times, but it still doesn’t seem quite good enough. Best to stick with the classic Norwegian black metal releases if you really want to hear something in this vein.