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Experimental/Post Metal

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4 stars Extreme metal is a genre that I enjoy immensely, and, upon hearing that this is considered to be one of the first albums to merge post-metal with black/death-metal I knew I had to give it a listen, having very much enjoyed other bands that fused those two styles, such as Alcest.

Wow, that was quite a run-on sentence. My apologies.

To the music: I admit, when I saw the track listing I was a bit intimidated. Five songs, all of which are over ten minutes. I saw a lot of potential to get bored. Luckily, that was not the case. This music is, dare I say, soothing. That seems odd to say, given that the majority of the music is dominated by aggressive guitars and extremely harsh vocals, but in my opinion there's not a better word to describe it. The harshness and aggression coalesce into a soundscape which is very atmospheric despite its intensity. These songs are fairly repetitive, but in my opinion that helps them; it allows the listener to get into a rhythm and be able to zone out to this music, in contrast to other extreme metal bands that shred a lot and require all of your concentration to keep up.

However, I also don't want to give the impression that this music is just the same thing over and over. It's not as dynamic as say, Opeth's longer compositions are, but this music still rises and falls in the way you would expect from long tracks. There are soft acoustic passages (though they are brief and few) and long passages are instrumental in contrast to the harsh vocals.

Overall, I would recommend this album highly, but understand what you're getting into. This is labeled as Experimental/Post-metal, but Black Metal is still the primary influence here. This is an atmospheric and well composed album, but it uses very harsh instrumentation and style. I feel like I'm rambling a bit, but hopefully you get the idea. Good stuff.


Report this review (#488068)
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Weakling noted the commonality between the wall of guitars sound in black metal and the wall of guitars sound in shoegaze (a la My Bloody Valentine) and really exploit the common ground between the two to the hilt, creating this intriguing album which expands the pallette of black metal and features epic, prog rock-length tracks that have a nigh-hypnotic effect on the listener. The sharp production allows for greater appreciation of the parts played by the individual members - bassist Sarah Weiner's playing is particularly noteworthy - and it's only comparatively recently with the emergence of other progressive/shoegaze black metal bands that the genius experiments dabbled in here are really getting the attention they deserve.
Report this review (#635332)
Posted Friday, February 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dead as Dreams didn't make much impact when it was first recorded (it wasn't even released for another two years), but over time it's become perhaps the most influential black metal album ever to emerge from the United States. The innovations of the album, from the lengthy songs to the shoegaze-like layered guitar sound to the post-rock-influenced song structures, can be felt all over the black metal scene these days, for better or for worse, and the album itself has become justifiably recognised as a classic (even Fenriz of Darkthrone has proclaimed it as a masterpiece).

Progressive rock-oriented listeners need to understand what they're getting into here. This is unmistakably a black metal album, with tortured vocals reminiscent of Burzum, plenty of blast beat-driven drumming, and the trademark tremolo picking of black metal all over the album. Weakling have clearly listened obsessively to and absorbed the material of Norwegian bands like Darkthrone and Emperor, and the music definitely has a cold Scandinavian feel to it. But somehow, at the same time and seemingly impossibly, there's also a warmth to it that some of these bands lack, and they've taken the scope of these bands' material and increased it. The long song lengths, while they could be a recipe for boredom in the wrong hands, actually work in the band's favour: they know just how long to repeat a riff for it to become hypnotic without becoming boring, and each song is comprised of the multiple interlocking sections that one would expect from a progressive rock album.

This is not an easy listen by any means, but it rewards repeated listening and contains some of the finest songwriting to be found on any black metal release from any country. The fact that so many bands have imitated it, either consciously or unconsciously, makes it essential listening for anyone interested in black metal. It's difficult to imagine bands like Krallice or Wolves in the Throne Room emerging from the United States without this album, but Europeans like Negură Bunget and Alcest arguably owe just as much to Weakling. But this album is important for reasons well beyond its historical importance. It's a spellbinding listen in its own right and manages, despite its seventy-six-minute running time and five lengthy tracks, never to get boring. Essential listening for anyone remotely interested in black metal.

Report this review (#1313097)
Posted Thursday, November 20, 2014 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
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 [%*!#]ing 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 [&*!#] 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.

Report this review (#1546748)
Posted Thursday, March 31, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a great album to listen to by headphones in the middle of the night. The feeling I get from it is as if Godspeed You Black Emperor were a black metal band. Both bands share the same kind of extended compositions with slow buildups followed by intensely dramatic sections, plus hypnotic and ambient sections, etc....but with forlorn (thankfully, sort of far away seeming) screaming, in Weakling. This is a great find!

I give it five stars but it is not as progarchives defines five stars: "Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music" as this is not progressive rock music, it is artistic and creative black metal/experimental music.

Report this review (#2741914)
Posted Friday, May 6, 2022 | Review Permalink

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