The death/doom/post/sludge hybrid comes out to play. Whelm marks itself as a sonic force to be reckoned with.
I’m not going to lie; I’ve always had a thing when it comes to mixing genres, especially all my favourites are put into one bundle. Whelm’s A Gaze Blank and Pitiless At The Sun is a combination of all the things I love from some of the most devastatingly sinister genres to ever grace the extreme metal blanket. This eight tracked affair trudges along for just under an hour and personally, I could listen to it again and again. Whelm’s music is out there, bringing together some of the industry’s best influences capitalizing on just how well they’ve brought everything together. So what are the genres that Whelm manage to incorporate onto one album, well, doom (both modern and old-school), death, sludge, stoner, psychedelic and a bit of post metal. At times the music is primitive, but not in a lo-fi, minimal production kind of way. Rather, it transgresses and truncates, shifting in atmosphere rather than forcing this intense sonic assault down the listeners’ throat on the back of a top-notch recording process and mixing. Subjectively, there’s a lot going on here, a lot more than what would normally be first appreciated by the listener. For an album bringing so many elements together, there’s a lot of room for this to go completely over the head of fans of the genre but instead of piling too much into too small of space, Whelm balances their sound and the music sounds all the more cohesive because of it.
It’s not all the same thing throughout the entity of the record, some tracks bring the intensity levels up a notch or two while other sounds add atmosphere using melancholic post metal like tendencies. “The Brazen Bull” is one such track that incorporates both light and dark with heavy and melancholic but somehow remains completely intense, building more atmosphere for the rest of the record. ‘A Gaze Blank and Pitiless as The Sun’ doesn’t exactly try to reinvent the modern wheel, nor does it innovate any revolutionary sounds for the genre as a whole. What Whelm does on their 2013 release is create a fresh take on a stale genre, revitalising some rather done before sounds and making A Gaze Blank and Pitiless as The Sun one of the year’s highlights in extreme metal, which by any standard isn’t a small task. It’s hard to find a record or song that combines so many of these elements without becoming a tiring, bloated or over-bearing listen, fortunately enough, Whelm avoids all three of those making the band’s 2013 record a fresh take on metal.
The album is predominantly harsh, both instrumentally and vocally, but at times finds the smoothness of cleans and ringing notes. These moments, while brief, identify that this particular act knows how to take some of the pressure off without losing focus on the primitive aggressiveness of their music. A Gaze Blank and Pitiless as The Sun is melodic, swelling and expressive enough to maintain the listener throughout, although most will find the latter half of the record stronger and more accessible, in short the back half of the album is musically stronger and more as a result, more interesting. It’s the melancholic side of Whelm’s output that transcends the others of the multi-genres; the album basks in a ray of sunlight, taking only what it needs to without being greedy or power-hungry.