Bow down, bend over...either suits me fine.

WEAKLING - Dead As Dreams

In his "top 100 records of all time" list for the Blastitude e-zine, writer Joe S. Harrington remarks that at the heart of it all, Black Sabbath were "just a bunch of godboys, albeit ones that wanted to worship god while still indulging in lots of drugs and random sex."

I like this observation, but I’d like to step sideways from it. For me, some of the best metal (and this is hardly a hard fast rule) is that which is both forceful/killer and still slightly submissive to its subject matter. The reason those first couple of Sabbath albums really stick with me personally is that way Ozzy seems both attracted and completely paralyzed by these forces of evil that he’s conjured! The song "Black Sabbath" is just amazing…over that crushingly mournful riff, Ozzy observes his handiwork, as "the flames get higher and higher," and then lets forth with this agonized "No, no, please, NO, GOD HELP ME!!!!!!"

Ozzy (and some others) always seemed tortured by their demons, not masters of them, and for some reason, that always appealed to me. Look, I’m hardly a scholar of the occult, evil, torture, all that spooky buggery that appeals to everyone from goths to metalheads to power electronics impresarios, but I know enough to know that anyone who struts around like they control the underworld is entirely full of shit! I’ve read my Greek, Roman, AND Norse mythology through the years, enough to know that summoning Old Scrotch (or your demon of choice) is probably going to end with you and your soul on the shit end of a very long stick. A lot of classic metal has that "last five minutes with Faust" feel to it, as the protagonist simultaneously revels in their power and dreads those moments before the ground opens up below their feet. At the very least, most good metalheads know enough to be vaguely submissive to these dark powers…Venom sounds like they’re always reporting from the point of view of a private in Satan’s army. Even Paul Ledney, possibly the most torturer of all black metal singers, sounds tortured sometimes.

In more recent times, I could only really think of Darkthrone when trying to come up with a band that seemed as much tortured as torturers. The simultaneous hate and mewling of Darkthrone is a hard combo to pull off (a friend who was a huge black metal fan [Darkthrone in particular] mentioned how he wasn’t too found of most of the covers on the Darkthrone tribute album because they "seemed too muscular," a point well taken, but which doesn’t prevent me from loving that record too).

Another band that has this vibe DOWN PAT is California’s now-defunct Weakling. Made up of equal parts true-metal and ironic-metal musicians (a few members of the Fucking Champs here), and led by a Black Metal/cult metal obsessive, Weakling steps into Darkthrone’s shoes and similarly trembles before the boots of lead, but maybe even more so.

Each of the five songs on this double LP (yep, LONG SONGS) seems to be a shriek of pain and misery, a call from beyond the grave not asking for forgiveness or repenting of its ways, but more like an endless banshee wail. The band is, as can be expected from its pedigree, tight like fetish boxers, and while the songs start out in the Emperor/Mayhem/Darkthrone/Marduk mold, they almost always end up in these 3-5 minutes guitar-buzz drone hells that resemble some cross between Earth and the Vibracathedral Orchestra, before once again taking off into some hellish and complicated riff.

My only complaint is the uniformity of tempo: there’s only one or two spots on the whole record where the drums go faster than 120 BPM! It’s one after another of those hyper-syncopated drum parts, where they appear to be going at lightspeed, but the song is plodding along at half-tempo. Gotta open up that throttle once in a while, guys, or you’re gonna get the gunk in the carburetor!

This, however, is the minorest of quibbles. "Dead As Dreams" is a metal record of great power, majesty, sorrow, creativity, and yeah, beauty. There might never be another like it, especially since the band has moved on. Memento Mori.

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE - 41st Century Splendid Man pic disc
7000 DYING RATS - The Sound of No Hands Clapping
BURMESE - Monkeys Tear Man To Shreds, Man Never Forgives Ape, Man Destroys Environment
GUAPO - Great Sage, Equal of Heaven
HARVEY MILK - Courtesy & Good Will Toward Men
THUJA - The Deer Lay Down Their Bones
NOISEGATE - The Towers Are Burning