By Tate Bengtson
At first glance, Weapon comes across as a pleasingly vicious slab of blackened thrash. “Ho hum,” you are probably thinking. Think again. Weapon’s approach is without (a contemporary) peer.
Musically, what makes Weapon unique is its intricate sense of composition, its sinuous melodic leads, and the subtle accents that it uses in order to conjure a distinctive atmosphere. Conceptually (and, by extension, atmospherically), Drakonian Paradigm is uniquely syncretic in its left-hand-pathos, in turn using its music to menace several doctrines from a common ground.
Intricacy? Melody? Subtlety? Syncretism?!? Such qualities are far from synonymous with blackened thrash’s typical avoidance of ostentation; however, it is Weapon’s ability to infuse its chosen genre with these qualities that allows it to stand on an exceptional plane. While many cite the pioneers of Greek black metal as Weapon’s stylistic peers, in fact Weapon is closer in sound to Italy’s Mortuary Drape. This influence may help to explain Weapon’s seemingly idiosyncratic character: much like Mortuary Drape, Weapon’s sophistication stems from its view that its music must not only intertwine atmosphere with aggression but it should also become the sonic embodiment of ritual.
While Weapon counts in its ranks Paulus Kressman (who goes under the pseudonym “The Disciple”) of Canadian war metal luminaries Sacramentary Abolishment and Rites of Thy Degringolade (among others), Drakonian Paradigm has very little to do with that subgenre. This is evident in Kressman’s approach; while his signature rapid-fire fills and hollow snare sound is in full force, he adjusts his technique to Weapon’s substantially different framework. Indeed, Kressman is a recent addition to the ranks; Weapon is the brainchild of Vetis Monarch, whose experience as a former resident of Bangladesh is reflected in Weapon’s ritualistic syncretism.
Enveloped in a coarse buzz, the abrasive riffs stand in sharp contrast to the leads, which are clean in tone and impressively frequent. This contrast sets up a dynamic tension that is investigated over the course of Drakonian Paradigm. Whispered growls predominate, although these are supplemented with shouted backing vocals and chanting. While I have read several complaints about the production, which often implicate the drum sound, most of these complaints fail to observe that this sound is precisely that which Kressman has developed over the years. With the snare at the front of the mix and hollow in tone, it imbues the music with an excited, violent, cathartic, and occasionally chaotic edge. This sound is intentional; it is with historical precedent and pedigree, and not due to “bad production.” Indeed, the other instruments and vocals are recorded and mixed in an orthodox fashion, possessing gritty-yet-clear tones and an appreciably robust depth. While I do believe that the recording could have bestowed more power upon the rhythm guitar, the clarity of the mix smartly balances all of the instruments and voices.
The album begins with an instrumental oozing with evocative leads. As it slowly ramps up the speed, the track turns into a barnburner that highlights the fundamental components of Weapon’s sound: the edgy riffs, the assertive drumming, and the numinous soloing. “Cacophony (Black Sun Dragon’s Tongue)” is surprisingly restrained after the preceding instrumental assault. It favours a middling pace, with Kressman’s snare hits relatively sparse and the rhythm carried more by his cymbal work and kicks. The backing vocals imbue the track with an anthemic quality that is not so much commanding as it is totalitarian in character. While “Cacophony” is an acceptable track, it is one of the most straightforward songs on the album and not representative of the qualities that push Weapon over the top. It takes a firm grasp of the album as a whole before it is possible to appreciate the significance of the song. Despite the seemingly inauspicious nature of “Cacophony,” following cut “Serpentine Ayat” reveals Weapon’s promise. While the backing vocals do prove distracting, its strength is revealed in the effective acoustic guitar overdubs at the end of the song and the powerful leads that run through it like blackened blood through a pulmonary artery.
The album truly takes off with “Mortem Pyre (In Darkness & Blood),” which oscillates between fiery thrash blasts, a stuttering, off-kilter midsection, and mournful slow passages pregnant with sepulchral ambience. Aggression and atmosphere find a common home on this powerhouse cut, which reveals the full array of, uh, weapons at this band’s disposal (apologies for the horrible pun). The album commits nary a fault from “Mortem Pyre” until its epic finale, growing more sophisticated and surprising with each passing song. “Archana” begins as a chaotic black thrasher that seamlessly slips into a piano-led interlude. “The Flame of All” features an excellent arrangement of acoustic and electric guitars during its introductory moments, which sets a foreboding stage for the vicious thrash attack that follows. During this all-out assault, Kressman pulls off one of his finest drum performances. The acoustic refrain is reprised later in the song, reinforcing the dread that saturates this fantastic track.
The album hits its apex with the epic closer “Remnants of a Burnt Mosque,” which is Weapon’s most ambitious and impressive attempt to bring the elaborate songwriting strategies of late-80s thrash to bear on the tactics of blackened thrash. Vicious drumming animates a snakelike riff, on top of which the use of the sitar alludes to Vetis Monarch’s experience on the Indian subcontinent, seemingly taking up its history as a place where the beliefs and practices of Hinduism and Islam collide. The concluding minute to this song is among the finest in recent memory, with its brief chant breaking to a climax where the guitars drop away and the rhythm team and vocals conclude on a threatening yet commanding note.
While the early songs are not as impressive as the music on the latter half of Drakonian Paradigm, the songs are more than the sum of their parts when taken together. In fact, the track sequence, unfurling as it does with ever-increasing complexity of both structure and instrumentation, is crucial to the album’s purpose. This is obviously a well-designed work conceived as a whole, with a beginning, middle, and ending that is as important as a narrative as it is something that simply sounds good. However, what truly sets this album apart are the intricate accents and sophisticated songcraft. Weapon’s ability to incorporate these qualities in a manner that actually enhances the aggression establishes an exceptional and compelling niche for the band.
 Vetis Monarch recounts how his experience shaped his philosophy: “from an early age I had an attraction towards the non-dualist Hindu frame of mind, partly because of the rebellious factor of going against the grain, and partly due to the terrifying image of Kali embedded in me…. My primary focus nowadays is on making…the link between different Left Hand Path traditions and further enriching their inherent similarities; Drakonian Paradigm is just the beginning of that journey.” In “Paradigm Shift: Interview with Weapon,” by Scott Alisoglu, Teeth of the Divine, http://www.teethofthedivine.com/site/featured/interview-with-weapon/ (accessed January 10, 2010).