I drive fast. I won’t ram my banana up your tailpipe or scream “Long one on the right!” in little old ladies’ faces, but don’t mistake that for deference or acceptance. I suspect this partially explains why I listen to fast music; the rage-inflicted murder beast that lurks in my soul is never fussier than when stuck behind some jamoke doing 25 mph. Consequently, picking up Weltesser was a bit of a gamble, as doom has never been my speed. The right groove can rev my engine, but idle too long and I’ll go right to Sleep.1. Unfortunately, debut Crestfallen leaves the motor running and the garage door shut; one whiff and you’re unconscious.
Monolithic and chunky, Crestfallen meshes the totalitarian heft of Bell Witch and rawness of Primitive Man with the lurching plod of Cough. With clarion pronouncement – hear ye, the Riff is here! – a weight hangs in the air as the stark monotones and creeping oppression of “Regret” slowly seep through your pores. Wafting sludgishness emanates from also-guitarist Nate Peterson’s (Rotting Palms) desperate howls, like indecipherable echoes in the abyss. Variations on the Riff barely register, the monotony dragging your mind into a droning basin awash with feedback and harsh emotion. A sense of uncertainty pervades the miserable proceedings, an aimlessness that pulls you deeper into the maze. With nary a crawl, the Riff manages to keep pace with your now obvious heartbeat, but how? The weight is too much. Finally, with your last gasp, you unshackle yourself from the burden of “Regret.” The journey is over. Hallelujah…
…I’m never doing that again. Crestfallen’s opening track is so stagnant and tiresome that it’s hard to ever want to go back. But on the other side of “Regret,” Weltesser trudges face first into “Guide.” The Riff is slightly improved, writhing in shrill discomfort at times. But like “Regret,” the disinterested attempts at variety or development are compounded by mass drudgery. Save its ending, the track is yet another menhir in this tundra devoid of joy or luster. And before you mention “the whole point of doom,” I should note that I find the Riff deficient as well. Dave Mustaine once said he regretted packing so many great ideas into his early songs, rather than stretching them out. Weltesser head in the opposite direction, microwaving their Play-Doh riffs over and over until they are past the point of usability. Crestfallen illustrates the difference between deliberately paced riffs and cranking the slow cooker down to “Come Back Tomorrow” and calling it a morning. I get why this might appeal to some, but I need something of value to latch onto. The somber atmosphere of Bell Witch; Monolord’s fuzzed out curiosity; the fragile balance Thou strikes between building you up and tearing you apart. Hell, take a page from influential tributary His Hero Is Gone and play with some gusto. Instead, the album offers nothing but hopeless, bleak despair and temple-pounding boredom.
In fairness, Crestfallen is not totally devoid of moments that, if harnessed properly, could have saved the album. The close of “Guide” and open of “Terminal” stick out time and again, but it’s difficult to tell if their peaks are legitimate or simply an oasis in the desert. The feedback-laden “Rats” comes closer to succeeding in totality, drawing on the backbone of fellow Floridian Ian Hronek’s (Rotting Palms) thundering bass to round out the offering. But most of all, I find the titular closer growing on me (at moss-like pace). “Crestfallen” opens up a bit of space in the regularly impenetrable proceedings, the breathing room an addition that would have been welcome more frequently. Peterson’s typically detached vocals gnaw at you, howling with nihilistic conviction. Expanding this touch of clarity provide that certain je ne sais quoi capable of nailing Weltesser’s unfocused waverings to a more tractable state.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I failed to grasp the conceit and Crestfallen has dutifully passed me by. This might be the top of the mountain for the low-and-slow crowd. If this sounds like your jam, by all means, grab a copy and allow yourself to marinate in Weltesser’s many fluids. For the rest of you, I suspect the dearth of riffs and near-total absence of progression or interesting concepts will do Crestfallen in.