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USBM has gained itself a reputation as the worst type of black metal. This is due to the stereotype that USBM is (for the most part) instrumentally challenged, poor in musical quality, cheap substitutes of their renowned European brothers, lacking efficient drum quality and guitar riffs, and overall minimalists nature. For the most part I can agree in saying that this is true, but not when the band in question is San Francisco’s quintet Weakling.
Weakling bring on a style of progressive black metal that uses the suicidal nature of your common USBM bands and takes it to a new level of progressive intensity. Their production is raw, but not to the point where it alters the experience of the music. Their songs range from ten minutes to twenty minutes each, and they do have the tendency to drag (but not as much as you would probably think). Trust me when I say that this is not your quick and simple listening experience, for each song is packed with intense and emotional extremes in practically every aspect of it’s cutting-edge sound.
With the opening riffs of Cut Their Grain And Place Fire Therein you will immediately get a feel for atmospheric intensity Weakling has to deliver. The opening drums are sharp and heavy and the vocals reminisce that off a dying man crying out in agony. Despite the fact that the vocals are easily the weakest part of the music, they fit the vivid imagery that the music gives. That image is that of intense internal suffering. Weakling also manage to pull off some amazing (and long) guitar solos without ruining the intensity of the music or giving it that DragonForce cheese vibe. I must also mention the perfection in the layering of the guitar that gives the music such an intense, inhuman vibe. It is chilling right down to the bone.
For what Weakling looses with overtime they make up with dynamics that require a dedicated and able listener to comprehend. Naturally, if you do not like long songs, you will have a hard time getting into this album. For moments that seem like there is no point could drive an unable listener to skipping to the next track. It’s usually a lot easier for listeners who are familier with this style and/ or the album itself to become entranced in it’s malevolent beauty. The title track, Dead As Dreams, for example contains some of the greatest highlights of the album, such as it’s epic and mind numbing four minute intro, but also contains some points of extreme dragging, mainly in the fourteen to eighteen or so part of the twenty minute long song.
Cut Their Grain And Place Fire Therein and This Entire F**ing Battlefield are by far the most driven songs on the album. On This Entire F**ing Battlefield you can really get a feel for some of the keyboards used (since they’re usually drowned out by the guitar otherwise). The keyboard symphonies are beautiful. It is my personal favorite off the album. By this point I should mention that Weakling is definitely not one of your slow and depressive black metal bands. No One Can Be Called As A Man While He’s Dying has some of the most doom-esque elements in it with the bass breakdown (which truly shows off the skills of the otherwise rather obscure bassist).
Weakling can show that they mellow out with the seventeen minute closing track Disasters In The Sun, which takes a very dark, funeral doom approach with it’s epic intro and outro. The song allows me to see the connection Weakling obviously has with the funeral doom metal pioneers Asunder. However, just like No One Can Be Called As A Man While He’s Dying, the song is not all slow and depressive. With this album Weakling have proven that USBM can stand strong, even in the most inadequate genre of black metal. Dead As Dreams is a rather unknown jewel that deserves a place in every true black metal fan’s arsenal. It is my definition of epic.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic.com)