There are some things here I would like to say but I’m going to leave to the end, so let’s make a deal. I won’t make any references to this band’s influences until at least the third paragraph of this review if you promise not to sneak ahead and… Oi! I said no jumping ahead! Eyes up here please. Imagine you’ve just been introduced to your new girlfriend’s mum (or boyfriend’s dad) who you find strangely attractive but you cannot, cannot look down even slyly because you and I will both know you did. As I said, keep your eyes from drifting down there and I’ll stay away from lazily chucking around names, genres, sub-genres, country of origin, all that stuff until at least the third paragraph. Because what I want to say (I know you’ve already had a sneaky peak…) is that some bands somehow manage to shrug off being the sum of their constituent parts and influences even when some of those might add up to something a bit lame. What I think I’m trying to say is that some bands are just good at the old song craft even if I’m not a hundred percent down with the setting. Good enough that the patchwork of influences really don’t matter.
Step forward the awkwardly named W.E.B. The band’s second album Jesus Heist in 2008 was something of an overlooked treasure which contained some odd moments, some that didn’t work and some just a little too stilted for my liking. But other parts which were nothing short of triumphant. Opening track Blessed Blood, the thundering Enthorned, the eerie chanting of Sepsis and the huge closing track Cellembraceaeon all made Jesus Heist an album that I’ve kept on returning to despite its tendency to off-road. On one level, Jesus Heist went so far off-road at times that it almost got itself stuck in the mud. On another, it was a powerful attempt to carve out an individual sound for the band that succeeded because these guys keep settling back into what they are good at: coming up with a few stomping metal tunes.
Another thing I like about this band is that W.E.B. (an acronym for the even more awkward ‘Where Everything Begun’) comes from the finest tradition of Greek eclecticism. By that I mean, some weird bits (a bit of spoken word poetry here and there) that will jar with some people mixed with plenty of other stuff that works perfectly – especially if you give things a bit of time to settle after the first hearing or two. Some people won’t be able to get past that. But, you know what? The Greeks don’t care. As far as I can see, they’re generally up for shuffling the pack a bit. So, for the benefit of all you lazy bastards that skipped to this bit in the first place, the best I can come up with is the heavily melodic and heavily gothic-influenced Nightfall (the Greek band not the Candlemass album). There are some bass heavy riffs that I guess you could use to point to Rotting Christ (guitar production duties were by current Rotting Christ band member George Emmanuel). I’ve also heard mention Septicflesh whose guitarist Christos and drummer Fotis also make appearances here. But, personally, I think Septicflesh are in another league of tightly packed heaviness and complexity to these guys even if there are some superficial similarities. Apart from that this is probably best and most broadly described as a melodic death metal album more in line with the likes of Dark Tranquillity (who they will be appearing on stage with in Greece next month) than any black metal band. But its most black metal moments are more Cradle of Filth (I try to keep bad news like this until last) than anything else, particularly the vocals.
And, just to get this out in the open (although I know we’re now officially in the fourth paragraph) there is an element of nu-metal (I told you not to look but you couldn’t help yourself) that I’ve never quite been able to shake off when listening to W.E.B. and that includes this album (on Night Funeral for example). I guess that’s always a risk when singing verges on chanting, heavy basslines, keyboards heavy in the mix, and you start throwing in samples. You know, some bits that might encourage some of us to skip to that You Tube sidebar to see where fate (or predictive marketing) would take us next.
But, as with Jesus Heist, for every negative, there are other moments you could use as the euphoric sound track to watch a meteor shower. The three-part finale, for example, shows the band at its best. Experimental, a bit of clean operatic, female singing to add that oriental, otherworldly element in the break and then settling into a racing melodic maelstrom that the band does so well. For me the question with a band like W.E.B. is whether you can overlook the quirks that don’t really work to the point where the rest of the album can soar freely end-to-end. Jesus Heist was a triumph despite its rough edges. But actually, with For Bidens, W.E.B. have raised their game a couple of notches. This is gratuitous, powerful riffs, indulgent gothic overtones and challenging, personality-filled metal. For me those quirks and minor faults are just the wrinkles that make W.E.B. an interesting band which I can’t help liking. A guilty pleasure even if it’s not quite as bad as fancying your girlfriend’s mum.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)