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If there is one Canadian province that can claim to have Viking roots, it’s Newfoundland. I know that Viking metal is solely an artistic approach, but it makes more sense to me to review a Viking metal band from Newfoundland than one from Saskatchewan(!).
The Forging dates back from 2008, but I see it as a flagship album among Newfoundland’s recent metal releases. I purchased my copy at famous Fred’s Records store in St. John’s, probably in 2009 or 2010, and back then it was already being described to me as the “staple” metal album around. Like many other provinces, Newfoundlanders have a variety of post metal, trash, black and brutal death metal, but in terms of Viking metal, I was blown away by Weapon’s offering.
The songs on The Forging are all high caliber. There’s an excellent balance of speed, brutal riffing, plenty of melody, death metal vocals, and Viking themes. The musical style ranges from your average melodic death metal to brutal trash bands (think Arch Enemy, Children of Bodom, Unleashed, etc). The songs are the average length, i.e. mostly between 3:00 and 6:00, but the arrangements and diversity of the structures make the whole thing flow without too many repetition (if you know Unleashed you know what I mean). There are all the right ingredients for a good metal album, with very few predictable elements.
The musicianship is also excellent. The two guitars are central to the songs, but the drum and bass bring original ideas of their own in the mix. One thing that I am impressed with is the level of ease of the band. In comparison with other bands whose huge sound is the result of the studio magic, The Forging’s brilliant vibe rest on the band’s free, almost live, energy. This is one rare quality to find in a metal band these days.
On a less brighter note, the production suffers from the same thinness as other Newfoundland metal bands; as if they tried to make us forget that St. John’s fish and chips is the fattiest in Atlantic Canada. The snare is flat, and the guitars sound like they’ve been recorded on a Bandit 112 amplifier (a home rehearsal amp). All instruments are at the forefront, and the general mix lacks degrees of depth. The musicianship was probably not intended to be perfect on the album, but if the mastering has been sent to another studio, the sound polishing job might have covered some of those imperfections and brought our attention elsewhere.
An honorable mention goes to the very nice artwork, throughout the album, that was painted by the same artist who designed other local metal albums.
All in all, The Forging is a great album to discover, especially if you don’t know anything about St. John’s metal scene. One last thing, Weapon has a song on the “From Coast to Coast: Death Metal Edition” 2012 compilation from Metal Made in Canada. This is another reason to check them out.
Originally written for blog.metalmadeincanada.ca
This album begins with the ringing of bells that make one envision a town of people gathered and awaiting a hanging. After these 30 seconds, the drums lead a man in shackles to the gallows as a melodic opening riff begins, the drums kick it up a notch and finally lead into a harsh growl, and the first verse of "Contagion" begins. This is an opening track that does exactly what is intended: to set the dark and aggressive tone for the rest of Weapon's first full-length album, The Forging.
Weapon are musically (somewhat) and thematically (very much) linkable to Viking-obsessed melodic death deities Amon Amarth. The vocals are always growled, the riffs are lead-tastic, the drumming features a lot of double-kick and well-placed cymbal work, and the bass is steadfast and audible. I give a hearty "huzzah" for audible basslines!
The production of this album is very good, especially considering this is self-released by the band. It's loud and clear, no instrument is shown obvious favoritism in volume (as I mentioned, even the bass, which is so often the red-headed stepchild of the family), and there's no wasted time between tracks.
As to the songs themselves, they've all got a unique quality to them as lone songs, but fit together so well as a whole it's more fun to play the album right through. The album has a great flow to it, and nothing feels out of place. Track 5, "The Dark Ocean", which is a mid-tempo and mostly chilled-out instrumental with an apt title, has the mood of a ship sailing on a roaring sea during a stormy night. Even this track seems like it's meant to be there; the album wouldn't feel the same without this lone, slower-moving and fully instrumental song in the middle. The riffs sound fresh and never let up, the drumming is concise on all tracks, and the vocals fit ideally. Extra points for the backing vocals in the chorus of The Fury, which screams "We won't give in!" thrice before turning it back over to the lead for, "On this battle-field, there is no mercy". Other stand-outs include "Of Embers and Ashes" and "Dreadnaught". "Slave to Sorrow" has some incredible riffs and an especially raw intensity that I enjoy as well. There are no weak tracks on this album.
The lyrics aren't given, and I'm not the best at picking them out from harsh vocals (a bigger death metal fan would probably fare much better than I), though are a lot of moments of perfect clarity. Pretty standard viking-based lyrics, it seems - warfare, Odin, heathen pride, glory in dying in battle, etc.
Overall, a highly recommended album to those lucky enough to obtain a copy, who are fans of such bands as Amon Amarth and/or Wolfchant, these guys have a similar intensity and sense for melodic riffing, though Weapon are very much their own band, I assure you.
- The opening minute or so of "Contagion"
- The riffs on "Slave to Sorrow" and "Of Embers & Ashes"
- The chorus of "The Fury" and "Dreadnaught"
- "The Dark Ocean" and everything about it