Review Summary: The building blocks of pure sorrow
Warning is a legendary doom metal band with its manic claws dug deeply into the culture of the genre. The band contained a growing cult following in their early days, all before going on hiatus to the dismay of their fans. Warning was born in slow, moulded by it. They didn't hear a fast riff until they were already broke up, by then it was nothing to them. Being masters of slow contemplation the band had taken the best elements from their early days and magnified them upon return with their release ‘Watching From A Distance’. At the point in time when ‘The Strength To Dream’ was released the band was still a collective of fairly young musicians, poking around and trying to capture their idiosyncrasies.
This band had a fair number of interesting qualities right from the get go of their humble beginnings, it was the refining that needed work, but on this LP the band displays some intriguing qualities. The music is of course as expected from a doom metal album, crushingly slow. Riffs plod along, drawing out each pick with conviction and assurance. The guitar’s job in such a case is to create a jarring atmosphere, which the band somewhat succeeds at. The riffs are indeed slow and rung out but somewhat directionless, in a setting where each strike of the guitar has to be meaningful there is often uninspired build up that nearly never draws out anything with more punch than the trough of its predecessors making the album a lot less gripping in a sense as there is no anticipation factor. The riffs do get to show off a bit here and there, in the case rather than shredding or breaking out solos the guitars take especially aggressive detours that contort the environment around it, demanding harshly on the drummer to keep up. The detours are refreshing as they maintain the melancholy sound of the music and provide a bit more depth to the otherwise all too safe guitar work.
Everything this band has to offer drips with melancholy bleakness and this album is no exception. Vocalist Patrick Walker is of cult status and deservingly so, his vocal style is haunting and very unique. He offers up a style that is almost something like old school Black Sabbath, if Ozzy was rather sad. This album is anything but a whiny mess, the harsh, thick nature of this album makes the whole piece come together to create a bleak and absorbing experience. Arguably though, the vocals here are far from perfect as during the band’s hiatus every band of the band improved respectively including the vocals as well. The emotional strength, power as well as lyrics fall short when in comparisons to anything off their follow up album. While there was room to grow it is not entirely on the fault of the vocalist that the feels aren’t as strong with this one. The at times downright lazy guitar work and overzealous drumming take away from the bleak atmosphere which Patrick really requires to shine properly. His vocal style is very odd and the band doesn’t fully embrace its niche on this release and when the overall atmosphere suffers, the very bleak centred vocal style won’t live up to its potential.
Co-founder of the band and drummer Stuart Springthrope puts on an incredible performance on this album, with bursting patterns and progressive fills which take up the whole scene it is easy to tell that he is getting quite a workout. Springthrope picks up the slack of the guitar in many ways by playing many different patterns jolting around the same riff as to make the mix have an illusion of fostered diversity. In many instances he also holds the band back as well with his overzealous playing. Suffering the same fate alike that of band Burning Inside the drumming can be at times out of character and is by far the least melancholic of the group. Cymbal crashes and heavy hitters are there and there is a presence of tight control but the songwriting isn’t strong enough to hold the message together. Being so high in the mix it is especially unfortunate that the drumming doesn’t live up to the story as the complex fills have a tendency to take the listener out of the ambitious atmosphere totally.
The production on this album is amateur to say at the least, and very poor for this sort of record. The drumming is way too loud in the mix, and the riffs are far too quiet. The guitar has a nice tone but not enough voice to be able to draw everything out properly. For these reasons the vocals can wind up out place and the whole band at times can fall flat as a result of shoddy production. Regardless this effort is still pretty decent, it shows an amateur band taking steps forward and refining ideas that would one day become the building blocks of one of the greatest doom metal albums ever.