2018 has begun and the serial overraters I begrudgingly call my colleagues have been distributing high scores like hookers hand out STDs. Frankly it’s embarrassing, and I decided to redress this situation by granting a high score of my own. Weedpecker hail from the Polish capital, Warsaw, and the front end of January saw the release of their third album, imaginatively titled III. Considering the lateness of this review against the release data, I toyed with relegating it to a TYMHM. However, I was very keen to give these Poles their moment in the sun, and a TYMHM meant not exposing them for another year. These guys truly deserve a higher profile based on the quality present here.
It’s entirely unsurprising that Weedpecker reside on the same label’s roster as Elder. Both feature groovy, stoner riffs, are progressive and are drug-fueled to differing extents. Fortunately, unlike Elder, Weedpecker aren’t unrelentingly average; in fact, they’re drastically superior. They sound as if they smoke less weed than they did when generating their name and drop more acid tabs now. The two cores of III are the aforementioned stoner riffs, which are just about heavy enough to fall into metal rather than rock, and psychedelic breakdowns. There’s a strong guitar-dominance in the mix, with the work of Wyro and Bartek leading the way, but the mix of shouts and clean singing, and most importantly the mellotron, diversify this.
By far the most impressive aspect to III is the subtle yet satisfying compositions. More often that not, bands with light and heavy characteristics split their songs between different styles: Opeth (or at least mid-career Opeth) were divided between progressive rock and death metal; Alcest feature post rock or black metal; Avantasia comprises symphonic rock and power metal. True overlap between the styles certainly occurs but not all that frequently. When the Weedpecker psychedelic passages take the reins it’s not just a case of substituting focused riffs with gentle jamming and the mellotron; instead, it’s more like the riffs are stripped back to expose the psychedelic underbelly that was always there. The gentle jamming and mellotron become the stars but the effect of peeling back that top guitar layer shows that they’re always established as the foundation in the mix. On account of this, III is great to switch off with, banging your head to the surprisingly technical, meaty leads or drifting in the psychedelia. But it’s even better when you’re actively listening as you’ll appreciate that these two elements aren’t separated.
Despite only 5 tracks which span a healthy 43 minutes, III is chock full of great riffs, exciting transitions and little musical landmarks which converge to ensure that these long tracks breeze by. The introductory lead on “From Mars to Mercury” is a banger which I actively look forward to beginning the album, while the dramatic pause at 4:10 with the varied riff recommencing after is another highlight. “Liquid Sky” boasts an awesome, nifty bass breakdown where Mroku demonstrates his fingers of steel. “Embrace” has the most obvious examples of the unconventional inter-locking guitars which aren’t quite harmonised but aren’t quite counter-pointing either – this sounds like a terrible idea but it really works and contributes to the psychedelia without simply deferring to spacey singing and the mellotron. The lounge solos sound improvised but this is also entirely appropriate.
Weedpecker immediately caught my ear on first listen and I’ve enjoyed III more with each subsequent spin. I notice new layers each time as the unusually deep arrangements wind round my consciousness. If I were pushed into pointing at a negative I could probably mention that “Lazy Boy and the Temple of Wonders” could be more climactic as the conclusion but this is so minor compared with the many positives above. It occupies a special place where it will take you on a fanciful journey, demanding of your attention. I’d begun this year distinctly underwhelmed with its releases, but thanks to III my faith in 2018 is restored.