It’s been awhile since I’ve got to bash, err…review a black metal album. Sure, I’ve had my intimacy issues with the genre over the years and I’ve been known to take a lot of bands to the musical woodshed for being boring, stale and overly derivative. Regardless, when a band gets it right, I’m the first to admit and admire it. Case in point, Canada’s Weapon impressed me a bunch with 2010s From the Devil’s Tomb. Featuring a lively blend of black, death, NWOBHM and traditional metal, it had ample heaviness, while generating enough unique charm to win over even my jaded heart. Essentially, they ground up elements of Glorior Belli, Melechesh, Absu and Immortal and layered in some Mercyful Fate and Diamond Head and it worked exceptionally well. Embers and Revelations keeps the basics of the style intact, but this is much more stripped down and direct than its predecessor. While it still works on many levels and ends up a very enjoyable release, it loses just a bit of that infectious charm. Still, this is really good stuff and doesn’t feel stale like decades-old bread from Mayhem‘s cupboard of blackened baked goods. What more can you ask for?
After the legally mandated slow, ominous lead-in, “First Witnesses of Lucifer” sets out to punish and pummel with light speed, choppy, thrashy riffs that could have come from the Bay Area thrash explosion . Alongside said riffs, they plant interesting trem ornamentation and flourishes and heavy bass rolls. Its fast and at times, blasty and has that turbine drumming style Absu rode to fame and glory. As it flies by in a spastic blur, Weapon thoughtfully drops a few epic flavored viking riffs into the stew and the solos even retain some of that classic, NWOBHM flavor. A big win by all involved! Keeping things hyper, “Vanguard of the Morning Star” blasts along like a hateful missile aimed at the Holy Land. The trem-riffs are furious and engaging and I particularly like the Immortal-like riff pattern that takes over at 2:28.
Other moments of gruesome glee include a Mercyful Fate-ish riff that morphs into pure blackened rage during “Crepuscular Swamp, Unhinged Swine” (3:17); the off-the-rails blasting fun of “Liber Lilith” which channels a buttload of Behemoth without losing the Weapon sound; and the equally manic riff explosion that is the title track (this one is a clinic on how to make black metal riffing exciting again). Lastly, “Disavowing Each in Aum” manages to reference vintage Annihilator (yes, F.A.G., I mean “AHHH-lice in Hell”) AND Carcass! Talk about strange bedfellows, eh?
This is very much a guitar-driven vehicle and its the vast assortment of wild riffs and styles that really makes Embers and Revelations a winner. Rom Sutr and Vetis Monarch leave no stone unturned or unthrown as they rip through a dizzying collection of influences and references, but at the end of the day, they keep it uniquely Weapon. Almost every riff has a hook and quickly shifts to other hooks. It’s like Pinhead’s Hook Emporium, for Christ’s sake! Fluid and slippery, caustic and abrasive, they do it all. As the strings create a blaze in the northen sky, Vetis slobbers and drools along with a half cackle, half death roar and it works admirably, though it’s not particularly innovative. The drumming by The Disciple is insane and likely heavily triggered, but it will hammer you into the ground regardless.
Sound-wise, this is an odd duck. The production is shockingly clean and crisp, but the mix itself still manages to feel soupy and claustrophobic. The guitars have a ton of punch, which is clutch because the guitar-work is uniformly outstanding throughout. The drumming however, often sounds overly processed and replaced. While not perfect, the sound won’t minimize your listening pleasure much as you get disemboweled by the non-stop, nerve jangling riffery and trem-abuse.
While I still prefer From the Devil’s Tomb, this quickly grew on me and the more I spin it, the more those riffs smooth out the wrinkles on my brain. This is one of the better black metal releases this year and even I can’t find much fault with it. God knows, I tried! Weapon is elegantly brutal and brutally elegant. You can pick which matters most. Support quality black metal and frown til you drown.