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An insurmountable masterpiece - 100%

Beast of Burden, July 18th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, tUMULt

When metalheads are asked to name their favorite black metal band, the responses are bound to vary from person to person. The responses range from the expected and typical (Immortal, Emperor, Mayhem, Sarcófago, Burzum, Hellhammer, etc.) to the different and unexpected (Thorns, Dødheimsgard, Mgla, Lyfthrasyr, Harakiri for the Sky, Deathspell Omega, Mütiilation, Satanic Warmaster, etc.). There's one thing, those, in common with all of the answers most people will give: many of the bands will come from European and/or Asian countries. However, you won't be hard pressed to find American black metal getting plenty of love. Deafheaven; Wolves in the Throne Room; Xasthur; Agalloch; Liturgy; Von; Leviathan; Judas Iscariot; Profanatica; Havohej; Demoncy - and that's just a few. Yes, some bands are no longer active, but they are still points of reference for favorites in the USBM scene. America has its fair share of bands that aren't too afraid to embrace the ice cold and turgid landscapes of black metal. If someone came to me and asked me what my favorite black metal band from America was, Weakling would be the first band to come to mind.

A brief bit about them first. Weakling was a short-lived black metal project born out of San Francisco, California. They were active for about three years (1997, I believe, to 2000, when they dissolved), never performed live, and only released one album, the five track, 75-minute long masterwork known as Dead As Dreams, in 2000. Various sources speculate it was released in 1999, but here on MA, the release date says 2000, so that's what I'm going with.

Now onto the music. Dead As Dreams is one of those albums that encapsulates war so perfectly. The music on this record is terrifying. I mean that. The music on this record is beyond explanation. It is scary. Like really scary. From the riffs to the vocal performance to the drums to the bass and the keyboards, there's not one element that works individually apart from one another. Each instrument compliments the other perfectly to create this unsettling atmosphere that's unavoidably palpable. This album plows forward like a war machine hellbent of global genocide and won't stop until you and everything you love are reduced to a smoldering pile of ash. The riffs are so memorable, twisting maddeningly through every single song, through every single movement. There's not one riff you'll forget if you pay attention to everything that's going on. And trust me, there's a lot going on. Drums pummel away endlessly with tactless precision. The guitars blare away as the antithesis of peace. There are even some lovely chimes that play in the opening track. Keyboards hang in the background of the riffs, sending chills down your spine. Sometimes everything just ceases and the keyboards are placed front and center to play this solemn melody as a cold wind blows, cutting through the dark clouds of war spiraling all around like a tornado. It's absolutely spectacular and a truly unnerving moment.

The vocals deserve their own paragraph. In an interview that's on tUMULt's website, John Gossard described how he came up with his unique vocal performance on this album. Apparently, he just decided to scream his lungs out because other black metal bands were doing it. Really, though, Mr. Gossard's performance is nothing shy of harrowing. It is without a doubt the most demented, insane, bloodcurdling performances I've ever heard behind a microphone. From anybody. Don't get me wrong, I've heard bands like Mayhem and Silencer. I thought those were some of the most petrifying screams I'd heard before. Through every song, it sounds like he's the victim of an exorcism a-la The Exorcist. He forces out these bone-chilling, suffocating screams and howls that are unique to me in that they sound like legitimate sorrow and anguish. The vocals seem to accurately depict the aural sentiments behind witnessing the hopeless horror or endless war.

Speaking of war, this album is one of few I can think of that seems to encapsulate the bitter proliferation of war, death, hopeless, sorrow, anguish, and depression all in one. This album is only five elongated songs, but in that time, it was able to perfectly present to the listener with an auditory glimpse of what the end of the world would actually sound like. There are no standout tracks because all of them are equally as incredible. Because when you listen to tracks like "Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein," the only thing that comes into your mind are the countless explosions on the battlefield, the devastating power of napalm blasting the Earth into a crater, tracer bullets swooshing to and fro past you as you dash into the thicket of Hell's violent underbelly. As it ends, the epic 20 minute title track only serves as a painful reminder of how hopeless everything is. As thick distortion fades in, it cuts off to drop to a very depressing acoustic guitar passage that builds into one of the most darkly beautiful passages I've ever heard at three minutes in. It's almost suicidal in how misanthropic it is. The whole song is rather progressive for black metal, frolicking with passages of doom, progressive, and what would later become post-black.

"This Entire Fucking Battlefield" (what an amazing title, by the way) is probably the best track just for the riff alone that makes up the first couple minutes of this song. Before reading the interview on tUMULt's website, I had no idea this riff was taken from another song. The riff originally came from a Norwegian black metal band called Demonic. It's from their EP, Lead Us Into Darkness, specifically from the song "Når Mørket Faller." I personally think it was better incorporated in this song than in the original. The dark thrash lead that opens the next track "No One Shall Be Called a Man While He'll Die" is amazing, as well as the seamless movement that follows about four minutes into the song. Everything goes quiet and the bass starts playing. Once again, each instrument has their place. There's not one thing that feels out of place, too loud, too quiet, too awkward, or it feels like it didn't belong and was just tacked on for the sake of it. The album closes with the devastatingly apocalyptic "Desasters in the Sun," the perfect way to close out this monster with a bang.

If I haven't made it clear at any point before I close, this album is not an easy listen. It may only be five tracks long, but all five tracks are sprawling and epic in length, ranging from ten minutes to twenty minutes. On top of that, there's so much going on that only heavy black metal enthusiasts and those with an interest in long songs will gravitate to this album. Back when this thing was released, it was somewhat polarizing, but it was still regarded as a masterpiece in black metal. Seventeen years later after its limited release, it's now a collector's item, even more polarizing, and is regarded as even more of a masterpiece not just in black metal, but in the entirety of the whole genre of metal. This album is not for everyone, I assure you, but for anyone who's curious about it, especially purveyors of the finest black metal out there, Dead As Dreams is mandatory listening. This album has to be heard to be believed. If you can, buy a physical copy to own.

Many different answers will come from many different people about who they think the best American black metal band is. I think the sunny city of San Francisco would be the last place the casual listener of black metal would think any band of this particular genre would come from. But if Wrest's project Leviathan and this album is anything to go by, great black metal can exist just about anywhere, especially in places you wouldn't quite expect.

American black metal's first real masterpiece - 100%

TheAbyssalArchivist, June 6th, 2017

Weakling is revered in the atmospheric black metal sub-culture for its influence on countless bands, most controversially Wolves in the Throne Room but also Alda, Skagos, Panopticon, Falls of Rauros, and so many more. This is their only album, an absolute masterpiece, one of the greatest in all of black metal and I would say one of the foundations for atmospheric black metal as we know it today.

Let's start with the guitars on this album. They are relatively clear in the dense mix, but the density is in fact the numerous guitar layers creating an almost and riffs hook in your brain for days. In the first song "Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein" alone, I can name at least four awesome riffs or passages, and I can say the same or more for everything else in this seventy-six minute long album. The title track's despairing intro with both guitar and piano stands out as well. The tone itself is thicker than the brittle buzz of "true" black metal, sometimes reminding me of the tone on the first few My Dying Bride albums. Guitar solos can be heard throughout as well, always very sinister and befitting the atmosphere of the album. Even with the lo-fi production, there is still enough clarity for the bleak atmosphere to reach multiple musical elements, including the depressing melodic moments. Surprisingly, the bass shows up more than a few times in this album, most notably in the middle of "No One Can Be Called as a Man While He'll Die", revealing exactly how important it is to the band's overall sound.

The drumming is also incredibly stellar. From vicious black metal blasting to crushing doom to even some thrash, the diversity is quite unexpected. Along with the guitars, they have a very dirty sound to them, taking advantage of the lo-fi sound while filling out the sonic landscape quite well with creative fills and patterns. None of these five songs resort solely to blasting or mid-pace or anything. There are always changes in pattern and tempo. It's not as minimalist as atmospheric black metal is made out to be, but to be fair this isn't 100% atmos black metal to begin with.

The vocals on this album derive primarily from Varg Vikernes', but with far more despair and torture behind them. They focus on the typical mid-range black metal shrieks, with more ferocity behind them than many contemporaries, as well as high screams that definitely work as a primordial DSBM sound, most notably in "This Entire Fucking Battlefield", a very Nordic piece similar to Enslaved or Borknagar. Throughout this album, little tidbits of additional vocal nuttery go on, with a variety of gurgles and clicks and unworldly sounds being produced from John Gossard's vicious vocal chords. In addition, there is a dense bit of keyboard work behind everything that focuses on the sinister and grim. It's quite minimal, similar to In the Nightside Eclipse, and just makes everything even darker and denser.

Weakling's comparisons to Wolves in the Throne Room, who came around a few years later, are definitely not without reason, but I don't think there was any direct copying so to speak. Wolves in the Throne Room has never been this aggressive, and while their atmosphere is definitely dark and introspective, Weakling's is genuinely SCARY. Yeah, scary. I love "soundtrack to the apocalypse" sounding metal and this works pretty well under that description. While I might prefer Wolves in the Throne Room over Weakling solely due to their greater amount of material, Dead as Dreams is of just as equally perfect quality as the best stuff their spiritual successor put out. The completely organic sound does wonders in today's love for more sterile production (not that there's anything wrong with clean sound or triggered drums, they can be used quite effectively when done right), and every piece of music on Dead as Dreams is performed at its most perfect, no questions whatsoever. It is a journey through a twisted, armageddonesque psychic plane full of glorious dynamics and evil evocation.

An organic masterwork from the outside looking in. - 96%

ConorFynes, April 6th, 2016

Seriously now; does Dead as Dreams really seem that overrated to you? Most of the reviews I've read of it spew venom about how it's pretentious and overbloated, preceded by a disclaimer that they cannot, for the life of them, understand why people love the album so much. Do Weakling draw their lines in the sand from an early stage? Absolutely, though there's a growing part of me that feels like the supposed divisiveness over this album is caused in some part by the fact that many people aren't willing to give it the time it needs to grow.

That should not dismiss the fact that Dead as Dreams' weird blend of DSBM, prog and (proto?) post-black metal isn't a sound for everyone. Still, there's something to be said for an album that's grown on me with each and every single fucking listen I've afforded it. I never hated what Weakling did here. I was, however, bored, or more precisely unsure on what I could latch onto first in listening to it. The daunting song lengths-- that thing literally everyone mentions about it-- makes Dead as Dreams a tough nut to crack, at least at first. Even as one who loves each and every track here, I can say Weakling don't write their epics in a way that relates well to common sense. On a standard progressive metal record, a twenty minute epic would unfold with an established beginning, middle and end. Weakling don't offer the same obligatory signposts in their compositions. Many listens ago, I probably would have sounded the popular accusation that Dead as Dreams fail to organize their ideas effectively. At the point I'm at now, I'm sure they know exactly where they're going throughout the majority of their album. They're just organizing themselves in a way many of their listeners aren't used to.

Part of the greatness of Weakling, I think, lies in their outsider identity relative to the established black metal canon. No one gave a shit who they were in the late 90s, and even today, Dead as Dreams' classic status is belied by Weakling's relegation as apparent forefathers to the "hipster" scene. Whatever. As far as I'm concerned, Weakling's relatively plain appearance did nothing to stop them for tapping into what black metal should really be about. Where in the 'expected' Third Wave fare of bands like Taake and jokey Nargoroth there's a recap of frostbitten tropes that feels redundant in context, Dead as Dreams feels emotionally exhausting and dangerous, at least so long as you give it the opportunity to be. Weakling's sound (particularly the drone and post-rock) have become synonymous with the 'soft' end of modern black metal. It's really something wonderful, then, that the innovator still sounds monumental and oppressive. Josh Smith and John Gossard's guitars are thick and bleak. The latter's vocals here (notably an ad hoc tack-on on Gossard's part) are rough and authentically tortured-sounding. If there's anything really divisive about Weakling, I suppose it would be the vocals. From my experience, the people who like the posty side of black metal are usually cheerier than the genre's depressive sector. On top of the band's groundbreaking style, elements of organic character like this are a large part of what makes Dead as Dreams so damn good.

Of course, a metal album is nothing without its composition. Dead as Dreams is one of the most challenging listens I've heard in recent months, not because it's as sonically offensive as some of the recent pushers-of-boundaries, but because of the sheer density. The length and sometimes rhapsodic approach they take to songwriting is practically begging for the criticisms that have been heaped upon it in years since. I thought the same way for the first few listens; it's really important to kep mentioning that Dead as Dreams never struck me with the awe of a masterpiece on my first impression. "Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein" impressed me for its doom metal resolution early on, but the album's more involved pieces were a blur initially. I feel like I 'get' the album now. And no, there's not a conventional structure you're secretly missing. Instead of providing a traditional outline, Weakling's compositions develop organically. That's the only way I can really describe what's going on here. The only other instance I get think of that occurring on similar terms structurally is with Moonsorrow's V: Havitetty. Each idea expands on the emotion of the one before it. Whether stretching, amplifying, darkening, uplifting, murking up or relieving the momentum of a given piece, the vast majority of Weakling's ideas work in their place.

I wish there was a way to better communicate my found awe towards this album. The frustrating truth is that whatever key that's needed to unlock this album for a prospective fan has to come with time, and more patience than a lot of so-called black metal fans seem capable of mustering within themselves. It's rare that a band strikes so many chords for me on opposite ends of the spectrum. I would never expect earnest doom and post-metal riffs tied up amid bleakest shrieks and depressive atmosphere, but here it is nonetheless. And, as a final note, I'm almost relieved Weakling never put anything out after this. Despite their obvious talent, I'm not sure the organic magic here could have really been replicated nor enhanced. Instead, they said all they needed to say, then faded into the abyss. That's a lesson some of their fellow black metal legends would have done well to follow.

Good, but overrated - 68%

BlackMetal213, July 20th, 2015

Weakling was a rather interesting black metal band from San Francisco, California. California is definitely a hotbed for the US black metal scene, with bands such as Xasthur, Leviathan, the supergroup Twilight, and of course these guys. Unfortunately, Weakling only cut one album back in 2000 before calling it quits. That album was, of course, "Dead as Dreams". Often regarded as a classic in the American underground black metal scene, "Dead as Dreams" had gained a massive cult following throughout years after its release. This album is indeed satisfying and contains moments of excellence but really, it's not mind-blowing. It doesn't live up to the hype a lot of people put behind it but at the same time, it isn't as bad as the small group of people who dislike the album make it out to be.

This is a fairly long album. I've listened to quite a few long black metal albums in my day, but this album really doesn't to quite enough to justify its 76-minute run time. Sure, there are indeed a fair amount of insanely dark guitar riffs and there is even a strong influence of progressive metal in here, and a dash of post-rock. There are also melodic moments to be heard, examples being the clean parts in songs such as "Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein" and "This Entire Fucking Battlefield". However, it seems the band focuses more on chaotic aggression and feelings of alienation rather than melody and structural integrity. We do have these melodic moments spread here and there and, of course, the production and energy of this album is fairly raw, but even the atmosphere could be better. The technicality is indeed impressive and fairly unique for a black metal band but really doesn't add too much to the muddy, distorted atmosphere. Overall, the band could have effectively added more melody and taken away a bit of the wankery to make this 76-minute giant more worth the time it takes to listen to.

The drumming is quite varied and is not just made up of constant blast beats, but there are definitely plenty of blasts to go around. The one complaint I have with the drums is that they do sound messy and sloppily played at times. This can also be a bit of a distraction. It seems to me that the drummer really just recorded in one take and kept that on the final product, which really is not a good thing. We can obviously tell the guy is a skilled drummer, but he definitely could have tried to reduce the sloppiness on this album.

This album is worth checking out if you happen to stumble across it. It does get fairly exhausting seeing as all the songs range from 10 to 20 minutes. I definitely don't have an issue with long songs whatsoever, but due to the flaws this album experiences, listening to it in its entirety seems like an eternity. Still, it's a notable album that will at least be worth checking out for any fan of black metal, and it's fairly important for the US scene.

Exhausting 80-minute journey, highly intense - 60%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, April 20th, 2012

First and last full-length for San Francisco band Weakling, this album is very highly regarded by many and few other BM records I've heard can match this one in intensity and aggression. I have to say though that I don't enjoy it much and can't find what I'd call a "soul" in the music. Weakling do all the right things a BM band do: the album has a murky atmosphere and a slightly muddy production and the vocalist is heart-rendingly screechy but I get the impression that this is the kind of all-extremely-technical instrumental riff-based epic alternative prog-metal album that once upon a time fellow San Francisco band Metallica could have pulled off before they recorded their self-titled album which for better and for worse propelled that lot on a different trajectory. I suspect that had Weakling continued they would have developed a much more distinctive sound and style while keeping their aggression and deep intense approach and I assume the band would play around with the black metal elements of the music instead of observing them with strict reverence.

Clocking in at close to 80 minutes with the music so full-on and relentless, though it isn't especially fast generally, this album can be an exhausting journey. Track 2 alone takes up 20 minutes - phew! There is hardly space to take a breath before the band plunges straight into one of quite a few long instrumental passages. Even the quieter, slower moments on the album can be draining. It's all very well to sound like your anger and emotions are very concentrated to the nth degree but when the whole recording is like this for nearly 80 minutes, you're going to lose listeners who reach their pain thresholds quickly.

An original version of this review appeared in Issue 15 (2007) of The Sound Projector which is now out of print.

Phantasmagorical Parade of Transcendent Riffs - 96%

atanamar, August 4th, 2011

This is the sound of war, insensate misanthropy unleashed, revenge, sorrow, triumph, madness. Weakling is, to me, the apex of American black metal. Towering, orchestral melodies float from dark corners of abandoned cathedrals. Searing and utterly unique riffs saw off bits of your being until only the music is left. Black metal doesn't usually evoke a wide emotional response, but the tremendous, sprawling and exhausting compositions herein will draw out a full array of passions.

Conceived in 1998 but released in 2000 with limited distribution, Dead as Dreams would be Weakling's sole recorded output. Legends grew around the CD's obscure origins, including fictional tales of treasure maps that would lead to buried copies of the album. Born of the twisted minds of John Gossard and Joshua Smith (of The Fucking Champs), Dead as Dreams is made perfect by a unique convocation of musicians.

Dead as Dreams unfolds over five elongated tracks. These songs move in a myriad of meters, unfurling teeming riffs that gallop with the thunder of an infinite cavalry. Dead as Dreams features my favorite use of keyboards on any metal album. Casey Ward's augmentative accents are never intrusive, insinuating diaphanous tendrils of melody into the engulfing atmosphere. Every one of these protracted compositions is packed with compelling twists, turns and revelatory crescendos of majestic guitar mastery. The synergistic creativity of John Gossard and Joshua Smith is a rare wonder to behold.

The feedback-borne intro to the title track is a singular, essential metal moment. Once you hear these melancholic melodies, you'll never forget them. The drums pick up the pace of the brooding theme, showcasing Sam Foster's absolute percussive genius. You know what's coming, you can feel it build. There's a brief pause before one of the most sublime musical phrases you'll ever here, and it's merely a stepping stone. The soaring melody is cashed in for a crushing wave of distortion, turning loose a phantasmagorical parade of transcendent riffs.

John Gossard's eccentric vocal performance is an essential ingredient in this masterful concoction. Each song features only a bare minimum of actual lyrics; the remaining space is filled out with rambling and demented cachinnations. Incoherent mutterings, grunts, gurgles and screams are delivered with startling conviction, conveying waves of anguished emotion. This isn't weary, woe-is-me downerism, but the wretched cries of ruined lives, shattered corpses, and tortured prisoners of war.

The production on Dead as Dreams is superlative, nailing a perfect balance of guitars, drums, keys and vocals. The guitars sport a buzzing, meaty and instantly recognizable tone. The bass is a bit buried at times, but the album's extensive dynamics give Sarah Weiner plenty of moments to shine.

Even after years of spinning this beast of an album, it still delivers the same rush of adrenaline, the same desire to rage, the same crushing melancholy. Weakling's lasting legacy is a 76 minute departure from reality. Black metal purists will debate its merits, as well as its place in the history of the genre. For me, there's no argument; Dead as Dreams is on my short list of desert island albums.

Originally published here: http://www.metalinjection.net/black-metal-history-month/essential-black-metal-listening-weakling-dead-dreams

Could Have Answered This Sooner - 13%

OzzyApu, July 9th, 2010

I’ve known about Weakling for a number of years, but I was never motivated enough to seek them out and hear them for my own benefit. From what I’ve seen, they’re a love / hate kind of band, with very little middle ground for fans to settle upon. This is their only full-length release, yet nears a CD length’s time limit with every track exceeding ten minutes. Hell, one of them barely skims over twenty, and a couple others head toward fifteen minutes, too. Now a songwriter needs to be damn good in order to write something worthwhile, but to make something worthwhile that spans as long as these songs takes a whole lot more. This is where Weakling fails.

With Weakling, I honestly don’t care who the members are, which is a sad fact. Most bands I care to know who the people are making the music, but this one release is too impersonal, regardless of how well-known the band is in the underground black metal scene. But members aside, the music they play is hardly groundbreaking or interesting, with very few moments in this +75 minute monster that hold fast and steady. Off the bat, the production is both raw and modern; it was recorded during that era in-between the new and the old, but it doesn’t know which side it wants to be on. It’s a decent balance, and I guess the raw edge mostly comes from the guitar distortion – like as if the amp was on fire and the dust from the strings flies through the electricity in the air; the tone is musty and wretched, but not as vicious as it is vintage.

The absence of a clean layer over the instruments causes the listener to leap between tones, which is something the band pulled off nicely. The execution is honest, but the songwriting is anything but stellar; expect overly long, underdeveloped tracks with inconsistent sparks of reason in a sea of drudging monotony, and you’ve pretty much nailed Weakling’s formula. Doom, drone, noise, and hellish post / progressive elements are fed to the stereotypically rough and stale black metal tone, which makes the tracks a little unorthodox at times regarding certain riffs and tunes, but it isn’t anything that one can’t handle. Before questioning the influences, I get bored and start skipping songs; there isn’t any ethereal, invigorating feeling like with Moonsorrow or Burzum – two bands that manage to make long songs while actually keeping the listener interested. It’s mostly the guitars, switching between standard black metal affairs (tremolo and aggressive riffs) and the other elements to create a twisted world with a pitch that I can only pair with the noise that comes out of vuvuzelas – that’s probably the closest you’re going to get when describing the guitar tone during the atmospheric moments.

The one anomaly that’s actually worth a damn is during the intro to the title track, which is almost the only track worth a damn in the first place. It was the first track I heard and it unfortunately set me off on the wrong foot, since nothing else recorded on this album sounds anything like it (a big letdown for me). Those who’ve heard it know what I’m talking about – the blissful, super-atmospheric intro with the rising rumble and piercing note that erupts into melodic, clean guitar and synth harmonies spanning a few minutes – and know that it marks the peak of Weakling’s pretty worthless existence. It’s the only section that I care for and probably the only thing I’d recommend to anyone wanting to hear this band (aside from that brief synth break around twelve minutes into the same song). But that’s as good as it’s going to get, and it wouldn’t be such a problem if the band shortened every song at least by half the length and focused more on straightforward songs than bedtime tracks.

With the guitars swaying between moody and desolate, the rest of the instruments are entirely the uniform. It reacts entirely to whatever the guitars are doing, which is simple formula at the core (for something like the title track’s intro this isn’t so bad) but lacks identity and pleasure. The blubber bass tries to stay alive at the low end throughout each song’s expanse of nothingness, like some raft out in the middle of the ocean clinging above the abyss. The drumming is a mess, with the double bass abused to the point of decay on a drum kit that totally neglected the drum bass; think feet patting pillows at vigorous speeds. The clinking clamor of the snares and cymbals, the offspring of the uncooked production, is the bane of Weakling’s sound, and it’s something that one should prepare against. There are blast beats, and then there are blast beats up the ass – this guy does it so much and so far up the ass you’d think he was your local health inspector.

Now the vocalist… and talk about useless. His ability to shriek and scream in an agonized manner isn’t the bad part, but how futile his contributions are is what pisses me off. Nothing on this album constitutes the need for a vocalist – not the black metal sections and surely not the post / noise / cyber sections. These songs drag on and on like soundscapes for insomniacs, but then you have Gossard trying to bawl and weep hoarsely like the idiot from Limbonic Art. The instruments drown him out considerably, almost like he’s in a completely different production setting, and nothing fruitful comes of their inclusion; what a waste, as the guitars alone do enough to set the mood (when they pull it off).

Go for something else, as this band garnered way too much attention for recording a whole lot with very little to say. At the end of the day, I’d take the two aforementioned sections of the title track and the bass break (and the bit afterward) of “No One Can Be Called As a Man While He'll Die” (thought I’d mention that last) and then jump ship, because nothing else is worth my time. Believe me, there isn’t anything else on here that’d be of use to you if you have even remotely average standards and the ability to let common sense do half the work. For a band that blends progressive / post elements with black metal, I highly recommend you check out Altar Of Plagues instead.

Heart stopper- what USBM should be - 95%

robin2220, November 14th, 2007

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)

Great USBM - 90%

WilliamAcerfeltd, August 5th, 2007

The USBM scene is infamous for quite bad black metal. This is true, basically because a lot of people in their late teens early twenties make myspace BM bands. More often that not, these people cannot play their instruments very well, if it all, to make matters worse, they often are very poor musicians who couldn't write a good riff to save a life. When you mix these two elements together you get very bad black metal. This has attached a rather negative stigma to the USBM scene. A lot of people will make vast sweeping statements like "USBM sucks". However, there are some real good bands out there, with some real talent, such as Profantica and Weakling.

This album sounds like suicidal BM, ala Xasthur. Not the grim, cult Norwegian black metal scene. So don't be expecting an album which sounds like Tsjuder or Lja. The riffs in this album are pretty good and offer a lot of variety. They would have to be, after all the songs on this album average 17 and a half minutes. Despite the songs, length, they will not get boring.

The solos on this album are fucking ear orgasms. Take the solo on the first song for instance "Cut Their Grain & Place Fire Therein". There is a long, slow, epic and skilful and epic solo on that song. If you don't like metal, you'll probably think it sounds like a cat being strangled, but if you are a fan of the metal scene, you'll no doubt be able to appreciate the talent which is involved in pulling off a solo like that.

This guy is a great musician and can put together some pretty cool and interesting riffs. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for his vocal performance. He's basically just yelling in a high pitched voice. Apparently, this guy wanted some one else to do the vocals because he "knew he sucked", however there was no one else around to perform them so he ended up having to do it. The vocals do suit the image of the music, which is that of despair but, hey they could have been done better. I thought he was going to be like the guy from Melancolia, start off in that high pitched scream and then go into black metal vocals, but he didn't. The vocals are the only weak point of the music.

The production is raw, so if you like raw production in your black metal then you'll no doubt enjoy this. The raw production adds to the overall, depressive, brooding atmosphere this guy has got going. It certainly wouldn't have been a smart decision to go with the clean, clear production because the music would have lost some of its appeal. In short, the raw production suits the music being played here.

The songs as mentioned above, are extremely long, it’s longer than Opeth's Morningrise by about 11 minutes. So don't expect this to be a quick listen. I would also suggest you spend a fair bit of time with this album. As while the songs are good, you can start to appreciate the songs more when you start to know them better. This album is a must if you are a fan of long songs (like I am).

This guy had amazing talent. It's a real shame he decided to cancel the project after this release for whatever reason. All this guy would need to do is find a decent vocalist and he would have had one of the best bands to come out of the US. Some people even like his vocals surprisingly, so don't think the vocals ruin this album completely. You do get over them in the end. This album is a must have if you are a fan of suicidal BM.

Conclusion: The above is recommended for download or purchase.

United States black metal with talent - 90%

Darkwinterdweller, March 19th, 2007

Black metal was essentially born in Europe, more specifically in northern countries, as Norway and Sweden. As time went on and the genre became more well known, naturally, we see those of other countries taking a shot at there own similar creations as well. Any new idea, of course, spawns it's own imitators. To put it simply, most United States black metal, is more times then not, is very poorly executed and lacks the spirit present in black metal bands from Europe (Kult Ov Azazel, being a good example). However, of all places, California's Weakling here have released something exceptional.

The music here is best described as atmospheric black metal, with smaller hints of other subgenres, such as drone, viking, progessive, melodic black, among others. The vocals are somewhat typical, and they do indeed sound very similar to those of Varg Vikernes, except a bit more sorrowful and higher pitched. Keyboards play a major role in the overall product here, they are very effective in creating the dark and mysterious atmosphere intended. Especially on the tracks No One Can Be Called As A Man While He'll Die and Cut Their Grain And Place Fire Therein. The guitarist here seems to be quite talented, he manages to create some very creative riffs, my favorites being on the tracks No One Can Be Called As A Man While He'll Die and Disasters In The Sun. The drums, are a bit less audible then the other instruments, but are varied enough and do there part in complimenting the other instruments I would say. The songs themselves are quite long, the shortest being ten minutes, and the longest being around twenty minutes. Despite there length, they very rarely get boring as the song structures progress and change quite a lot throughout the time. The lyrics are not provided at, but are said to be about epic themes, war, and battles. Hopefully one day they will be published.

This release truly shocked me, when intially hearing that this was a band from the United States. This is an atmospheric masterpiece in every aspect. It's just unfortunate that this band split up shortly after there only full length here, and will more then likely never reform, according to comments from a member in a recent interview. I would recommend this to any fan of black metal, or any fan of atmospheric music in general.

Unique, Beautiful - A Masterpiece - 99%

bimu, December 23rd, 2006

Weakling's only full-length is one of my favourite albums, in any genre.

This said, on to the review. With five lengthy tracks, "Dead As Dreams" is a truly unique and impressive album that sucks the listener in and never lets go. Its style is mostly black metal but there are elements of other genres present, which should not be overlooked as they make this album unlike quite anything in the genre.

Despite some similarities to Burzum, Shining or USBM bands such as Xasthur, Weakling strays significantly from the style of these bands. The two main similarities between Weakling and, e.g. Burzum are the vocals and the layered guitars. Weakling's vocals are indeed similar to Varg's screams, but while Varg's vocals were filled with anger, John Gossard's voice - technically terrible but very effective - expresses mainly despair. Also, it is used more chaotically which adds to the overall feel of the music, which is that of being traped in the midst of a battlefield with no possibility of escape, chaos all around, thoughts filled with death, despair, hatred.

Guitars on "Dead As Dreams" are truly amazing. To be precise, their layering is absolutely outrageous. You may not hear it at first but when listening carefully, you'll notice that the guitar tracks are composed of countless layers, some of which playing exactly the same riff. This is used most effectively in the title track, whose last 7-or-so minutes begin with a single guitar track and progressively, as the motif evolves, new layers are added (+other instruments), which results in an incredibly thick and mesmerizing wall of guitar sound at the end of the track. This MUST be heard as it's truly magnificient.

I also enjoy the drumming, which is varied enough and sounds especially dynamic during blast-beats - the fact that the drums are not triggered and organic-sounding very helps this a lot. Also, keyboards are used very subtly but add to the atmosphere.

In general, apart from black metal, Weakling incorporate elements of viking metal (the title track reminds me a bit of Sólstafir), post-rock, and even progressive rock, but they are twisted and re-interpreted, melting into something of its own kind.

There are certain albums that are not only excellent as a whole but also have moments of pure genius (even if only a few seconds) - "Dead As Dreams" has two such moments. The first one is the wall-of-guitars ending of the title track mentioned before. The other one can be found in "The Entire Fucking Battlefield", it comes at about 6 minutes into the song, when a calm clean guitar part turns into an extremely dynamic black metal blast. It's one of those moments when you actually expect that an outburst of noise will be thrown at you any second but despite the anticipation, when it actually comes, it destroys you with its ferocity and sheer power. Really really powerful.

Bottom-line: Absolutely recommended.

Ingredients: Imitation Black Metal - 36%

Diarrhea_Face, October 6th, 2006

Weakling, this band come from the United States, California to be exact. As I encountered the other reviews on this site I had decided to check them out. I am always in search of good American bands, black metal bands. However this turned out to be another complete and utter waste of time and really waste of energy. These guys remind me of the typical American band trying to create something they are not and will never be a part of. What comes to mind are an overfed, overindulged, pampered and uneducated bunch of "artistic" individuals. It takes a certain amount of life experience to be able to make music which exudes anguish. They put so much effort; as the other reviewer stated, into adhering to the cliches of the genre. The musicianship is not all together bad, in fact if they played in some trendy upbeat heavy metal (or perhaps indie rock band now that I think of it) they might be able to pass the bill, but not here, no way, never!

The sound on this recording is very clean, as if it were not mastered. You can hear exactly what kind of equipment they're using and actually things are quite seperate, which with the style they are attempting to play, is not good. The vocalist at first I thought might not be bad, I seem to judge them rather quickly, so I gave it some time. Well it turned out to be so bad that I had to actually get up and turn off the stereo I was so pissed off and nearly snapped the disc in half. His screams are those halfway screechy, halfway growling type, but forced into a sort of wimper such as with a Burzum or a Silencer. The problem is it sounds so fake, like a spit in the face of those people who actually suffer for their art or within their art. The drumming I must say is also very generic, everything recycles over and over again, it's like listening to someone practice. He plays the same fills, which start to get on your nerves fast. The sad part is it sounds like he has a nice kit, probably paid for by his rich family. To me there is absolutely nothing which redeems this album, or this band. Even if you are open minded it is still not worth your time, there are better things in life than this, hell reading this crappy review is probably more stimulating than their music and guess what, it's free!!

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.