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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.