Weakling was an influential Black Metal band from San Francisco, California. While they never toured, rarely performed live at all, and only released one album, Dead as Dreams (apparently originally self-released in limited quantities on CD-R and cassette in 1999; given wide release on the tUMULT label in 2000, which is generally considered the album's official release date; (recorded in 1998), their musical output became immensely influential on an entire generation of black metal bands from the United States and elsewhere, including such acts as Wolves in the Throne Room, Krallice, Ash Borer, Fell Voices, Panopticon, Deafheaven, and countless others.
Weakling's primary innovation was to filter the music of Scandinavian Black Metal bands through the lenses of Shoegaze, Post-Rock, and Progressive Rock. The songs were long, with the shortest still exceeding ten minutes in length, and consisted of multiple sections that interlocked to form a coherent whole. The result did not immediately make an impact, and the band was initially noted mostly for containing a future member of The Fucking Champs, but a later reissue of the album brought it more attention, and it was hailed by no less a source than Fenriz of Darkthrone as a masterpiece.
Track listing(s) of Dead as Dreams & release history
- Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein - 10:28
- Dead as Dreams - 20:39
- This Entire Fucking Battlefield - 14:47
- No One Can Be Called as a Man While He'll Die - 13:09
- Desasters in the Sun - 17:05
This is the track listing used for all CD editions and the band's first self-released cassette. It's not clear if the spelling "Desasters" in the final song title is intentional, because there is conflicting information about this. Some sources have claimed that track 5 was given this spelling in tribute to the Destruction song "Total Desaster", while other sources have claimed that it was a typo (claiming Gossard has indicated this himself, though it is unclear if there is a citation for Gossard confirming this on the web). There is even conflicting information about the many releases of the album, and this is where things really get complicated.
The most commonly known release of the album is a CD edition first released through tUMULT in 2000. According to Discogs, there was a preceding CD-R edition and a preceding cassette edition self-released by the band in 1999. Neither of these earlier editions are present in most other databases (MusicBrainz, etc.), though Discogs actually does have photos of the packaging that confirm these are different from other pressings. Despite the 1999 self-release, most sources list the album's release date as 2000. Both of the self-released editions feature the track listing used on the tUMULt CD (complete with "Desasters" spelling). tUMULt made a second print run of the CD once sometime around 2006-2007 and a third one sometime after 2010, which were mostly the same as the first tUMULt CD apart from some marking information on the CD itself.
Where it really gets complicated is with LP edition and the (possibly second) cassette pressing on German label N:C:U. These are both extremely rare (fans have been begging for a reprint of the LP for at least fifteen years), and different databases have different information about them. Metal Archives and MusicBrainz both have the "Desasters" spelling. Discogs has "Disasters". Discogs has pictures of the LP and N:C:U cassette packaging (the N:C:U cassette is also pictured on Metal Archives), but they are too small to confirm what spelling was used.
In any case, the LP and N:C:U cassette editions both use different track orders, presumably due to the space limitations of their respective media:
LP (tUMULt, 2000)
- A1. No One Can Be Called as a Man While He'll Die - 13:09
- A2. Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein - 10:28
- B1. Dead as Dreams - 20:39
- C1. This Entire Fucking Battlefield - 14:47
- D1. Disasters in the Sun - 17:05
Second Cassette (N:C:U, 2003)
- A1. Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein - 10:28
- A2. No One Can Be Called as a Man While He'll Die - 13:09
- A3. This Entire Fucking Battlefield - 14:47
- B1. Dead as Dreams - 20:39
- B2. Disasters in the Sun - 17:05
- John Gossard: guitar, vocals
- Josh Smith: guitar
- Sarah Weiner: bass
- Casey Ward: keyboards
- Sam Foster (a.k.a. Little Sunshine): drums
- Ambient: An influence on some parts, such as the ends of "Dead as Dreams" and "Desasters in the Sun".
- Badass Boast: Their name is actually this: it's a description of you, the listener.
- Black Metal: One of the most influential American bands, despite releasing only one album. They serve as arguable Trope Codifier for the Blackened Shoegaze and Black Metal/Post-Rock subgenres.
- Boléro Effect: Used occasionally, most notably with the massive crescendo in the middle of track 4.
- Book Ends: "This Entire Fucking Battlefield" and "No One May Be Called as a Man While He'll Die" both end by reprising their opening riffs. There's also an internal case of this with the transition between "Cut Their Grain" and "Dead as Dreams" - it's clear that the band just ran the audio backwards to produce the opening of the latter song. This is easily confirmed by ripping the album as a disc image and zooming in at the waveform peaks and spectral analysis of that portion of the album. The exact point of symmetry is at 10 minutes, 26 seconds, and 20 CD frames (a CD frame is 1/75 of a second) into the album image. The left channel isn't exactly symmetrical, but the right channel is almost perfectly so.
- Drone of Dread: How several of their songs end. "Dead as Dreams" and "Desasters in the Sun" stand out the most, since they each close off with over three minutes of it.
- Epic Instrumental Opener: "Dead as Dreams" is a magnificent example, with a gorgeous four-minute intro that is regarded by most fans as Awesome Music.
- Epic Rocking: Exclusively so. Their shortest song is still nearly ten and a half minutes long.
- Fading into the Next Song / Fake-Out Fade-Out: Done subtly with "Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein" and "Dead as Dreams". The final chord of "Cut Their Grain" fades out, then fades back in to lead into "Dead as Dreams". (The entire album actually runs together continuously on the CD edition, but you'll have to have the volume up fairly high to notice; the transitions between the first two songs and between tracks three and four are the most noticeable by far.)
- Harsh Vocals / Careful with That Axe / Metal Scream: Because they're a black metal band, this is inevitable.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: If there even are lyrics. For all we know, the vocals could just be wordless screams (though it does sound like Gossard is enunciating actual words at times).
- Instrumentals: Not on the album itself, but the demo versions have no vocals. John Gossard didn't particularly care for his own vocals (and would not perform vocals in his future bands again until Dispirit), but some listeners find them quite effective.
- Intentionally Awkward Title / Intentional Engrish for Funny: "No One Can Be Called as a Man While He'll Die" and arguably "Desasters in the Sun" have these, as tributes to the many metal bands who didn't speak English as their first language but nonetheless recorded songs in Gratuitous English.
- Last Note Nightmare: "Dead as Dreams" ends with about three minutes of this. Also, "Desasters in the Sun" is an arguable Last Song Nightmare.
- Loudness War: Not one of the worst examples, as the album comes out to DR6, but there's still some clipping. The vinyl version is highly sought after (it usually sells for more than $200, and fans have been begging Gossard to reissue it for years) for this reason.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: Just the band logo, album title, and a blurry picture of a screaming face.
- One-Book Author: Unless you count a demo and a rehearsal tape that they put out before Dead as Dreams. Even so, this one album was more than enough to solidify them as an enormously influential band.
- Post-Rock / Progressive Rock: The band's song structures fall somewhere between the two genres, although they take little other influence from them.
- "Rashomon"-Style: Due to the rarity of the vinyl and cassette editions of Dead as Dreams, there is conflicting information about them. There's also conflicting information about the spelling of "Desasters in the Sun", described in detail under the album track list.
- Shoegaze: A distinct influence on the band's layered guitar sound.
- Siamese Twin Songs: On the CD, "This Entire Fucking Battlefield" and "No One Can Be Called as a Man While He'll Die" are this. On the LP, "No One..." precedes "Cut Their Grain..." due to vinyl side limitations, so this does not happen. The second cassette evidently reverses their running order; it's currently unknown whether it inserts any transitions like this one.
- The Smurfette Principle: Sarah Weiner is the only female member of the band. This means they had one more female member than most black metal bands do. Sarah was also a member of The Gault, although she switched to drums for that band, whose lineup averted this trope: it featured Weiner, Gossard, bassist/vocalist Lorraine Rath, and vocalist Ed Kunakemakorn, making it, rather unusually among metal bands, a Gender-Equal Ensemble instead. (Rath, for her part, later co-founded the somewhat Doom Metal-tinged goth/Post-Rock/ambient outfit Worm Ouroboros alongside Jessica Way; that band inverts The Smurfette Principle, being a three-piece with only a male drummer. Currently, that is Aesop Dekker, also known for his work with Ludicra, Agalloch, and about a dozen other West Coast bands).
- Song Style Shift: Quite frequently due to the lengths of their songs (this is also one of the cases where the Progressive Rock influence shines through). "This Entire Fucking Battlefield", for instance, goes from a fast, almost triumphant opening section, to a minute of near-Drone of Dread, then to furious blasting, then to a trudging, ominous dirge, and then to an almost mournful sounding solo before looping back to the opening riff. All of their songs can be divided into at least three discrete segments; some of them could be considered to have six or seven.
- Spell My Name With An S: "Desasters in the Sun". It's not clear if this was intentional, or even if all editions of the album use this spelling.
- Spiritual Successor: Dispirit, John Gossard's latest band, performs a similar post-rock-influenced strain of black metal, though there's more funeral doom influence. Since Gossard's previous band, Asunder, had been a funeral doom outfit, this probably isn't surprising. (The chronology evidently goes Weakling, then The Gault, then Asunder, then Dispirit; there may have been some overlap between The Gault and Asunder, but not as much as the 2005 release date of The Gault's sole album might lead people to expect, since it has a copyright date of 1999, indicating it was written and, probably, recorded much earlier. The Gault was essentially gloomy traditional Doom Metal with a large dose of Post-Punk influence - think England's Warning - and occasional Gothic Metal and death rock influence.)
- Title Track: "Dead as Dreams", of course.
- Titled After the Song: They're named after a Swans song. They themselves got this with the post-black metal band Dead as Dreams.
- Uncommon Time: Shows up fairly commonly. For example, the opening riff of "This Entire Fucking Battlefield" is in 9/4, and then it jumps around from there; some segments are mostly in 4/4, but there are fills that throw in bits of other time signatures as well.
- War Is Hell: Seems to be a theme of the band, judging by songs like "Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein" and "This Entire Fucking Battlefield", both of which have a distinctly martial sound to them (not to mention said songs' titles; burning an opponent's food source has been a common tactic during war throughout history). We don't know what John Gossard is actually singing about on these songs, but Metal Archives does list their lyrical themes as "War".