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Weakling - Dead As Dreams CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.39 | 30 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'Dead as Dreams' - Weakling (96/100)

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.

Conor Fynes | 5/5 |


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