The Weir – “Calmness of Resolve” (2015)

I got turned on to The Weir back in 2013 after checking out their release Yesterday’s Graves online.  In fact, I liked it so much that I had it at #3 on my personal Top 5 New Releases in 2013, and even put my money where my mouth is by buying the limited vinyl release of it that came out the following year.  Their style of sludgy doom struck a chord with me, and I’ve kept tabs on the band ever since.

Well, great news, kids.  The Weir have a new album coming out, Calmness of Resolve, slated for a cassette release by Hearing Aid Records that should drop on October 23.  I was able to get ahold of a digital review copy, and let me just tell you this – The Weir are just as heavy as ever.

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The Weir have always been about longer songs, which their slowed down, weighty style makes seem even longer.  But they out-did themselves on Calmness of Resolve, a full-length album despite just having four tracks.  The shortest is the 6:55 “Old Country,” with the remainder all coming it at over nine minutes apiece (and the title track at a whopping 14:49).  And the time is warranted, because it allows the band the opportunity to truly develop their soundscapes and charge them with a pretty deep emotional current… as well as reinforce that sensation of dread that creeps into the back of your brain and slowly builds as the songs progress, a warning that all is not as it seems, that all is not right with he world, that maybe, just maybe, we are all damned and biding our time until the inevitable end.

With songs this long there are some lengthy instrumental stretches, and the growled vocals act more like a blast of dark energy that ratchets up the intensity of the environment created by the instruments, connecting it back for short stretches to the human race.  The vocals bring an element of pain and despair, pulling the listener into he world created by the sound.  And that world is heavy. (♠)

To my ears, The Weir are at their best on Calmness of Resolve with “No Fate” and “Old Country.”  The building intro to “No Fate” explodes into insistent vocals that remain paced to the music, the slow, deliberate cadence giving them even more power.  And when the music all but drops out at the 2:50 mark and gives way almost entirely to the vocals for a good 20 seconds or so, it might be the most powerful moment on the album (…forever!… cursed!….), standing in contrast stylistically to what surrounds it.  “No Country” may be as close as The Weir come to a “standard” doom tune, but it’s the pacing changes that give this song its character, the quieter moments where the heaviness fades out for a bit… only to come back and blast you once again.  The opening five minutes of the instrumental “Calmness of Resolve” are another high point on the album, and one that shows that The Weir have a  lot of musical talent, both in playing their instruments and structuring them in a way that feels more like a quiet conversation than a no-holds-barred sonic assault (which, of course, has it’s place as well…).

If you want to check out some of their earlier material, Yesterday’s Graves is available for free streaming HERE.  I, for one, will be ordering the Calmness of Resolve cassette when it comes out next month.  So check ’em out, and maybe order a copy for yourself.

 

(♠) The album’s longest song, “Calmness of Resolve,” however, is entirely instrumental.  But the following track, “Old Country,” makes up for that by immediately opening with vocals.

The Weir – “Yesterday’s Graves”

When you’re in a relationship with someone for a period of time you start to develop habits and inside jokes that only you two know.  My wife and I have something along these lines related to Calgary.  We went through a phase where we watched pro wrestling on TV together, getting kicks out of the crazy story lines and sometimes being blown away by tremendous (and often incredibly risky) physical feats.  One of our favorite “heels” was Lance Storm, a too-stiff-to-believe guy with a buzz cut who’s Canadian citizenship was always part of his schtick.  Seemingly whenever he got the mic he’d remind you he was from “Calgary [long pause… wait for it… wait for it…] Alberta, Canada!”  So pretty much any time we hear someone say Calgary, you can bet the two of us will try to “out-Lance-Storm” each other and drop an “Alberta, Canada” at just the perfect time, usually 3-4 seconds after hearing “Calgary”.  Other people, of course, find this odd at best, annoying at worst.

So what the hell does Lance Storm have to do with self-described sludge / post-hardcore /  ambient band The Weir?  Well, they’re from Calgary [wait for it!]… Alberta, Canada too.  But unlike their wrestling city-mate, The Weir aren’t funny.  They’re slow and heavy, like oil draining from a cold engine.  Like Godzilla stomping his way through Tokyo.  Like Atlas holding the world on his shoulders and trying to take a step.

The band description raised my eyebrows.  I wasn’t quite sure how those genres fit together, but I have to admit I was intrigued.  When I went to their homepage to listen to their new album Yesterday’s Graves (see below), I wasn’t surprised to see they only had six songs… that seems pretty punk rock.  But I was surprised that those six songs provided over 42 minutes of music.  Very un-punk.  The Weir aren’t here to short-change you with quick hardcore numbers.  Oh no.  Like all good things, their songs take time to develop.  This isn’t quick-in-quick-out.  They’re taking you somewhere, and it’s a slow, methodical journey, sometimes heavy, sometimes quiet.  And you’re just along for the ride.

The Weir give us two distinctive sounds on Yesterday’s Graves – one that is quiet, and one that is insistent.  Somehow they weave these two disparate themes together into something that fits.  In the middle of the album “La Belle Curve” is an eight minute instrumental that starts slow, picks up somewhat, but not a ton, in the middle, and then slowly trails off over the last couple of minutes before it finally seems to simply lose momentum to the point where it comes to a complete stop on its own, like the expanding universe may eventually do, slowly and ever more quietly approaching its end.  This is the ambient.  But then follows “In Silence,” which starts almost like a continuation of “La Belle Curve,” like the universe found just a bit more energy and is starting to come back to life… and it starts to build… insistently… and just over a minute in the growling vocals start to appear… energy… power… slowly starting to crush you.  How did we get here?  Things were so quiet and still just a minute or so ago!  You don’t know.  You didn’t see it coming.  And that, my friends, is the power of The Weir, a microcosm of their sound in two songs.

To me, Yesterday’s Graves isn’t six songs.  It’s one song.  It’s one message from The Weir to the universe.  I couldn’t tell you which song is my “favorite” because that doesn’t seem to make any sense in the context of this album, which I think is best played straight through, start to finish.  I’m kind of glad I’m not listening on headphones, because I think I’d have been put into a trance and transported into some kind of mind-trip.  Which sounds cool as hell, but it’s a bit too sunny outside for that journey right now.  Maybe tonight when it gets dark and quiet…

Simply put, Yesterday’s Graves is one of the best new albums I’ve heard this year.  Period.

Yesterday’s Graves is currently available online for a free listen, and you can also purchase the download.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Dude, this isn’t vinyl.  True.  But… [wait for it!] it’ll be on vinyl soon!  In fact, according to the band’s Facebook page they already got the test pressings.  So it’s coming.  And it will be worth the wait.  And you need to be ready so you can buy your copy before what I’m guessing will be a relatively small release is sold out.  You seriously don’t want to miss out on this, because Yesterday’s Grave is some killer stuff.