Based on your description it sounds like your system can't deal with vga16 frame buffer required for the pretty splash. This is how I blacklist it on all my installs to speedup boot time and get verbose startup messages.
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Updating the initramfs takes close to 10 minutes on my celeron 400.
echo blacklist vga16fb > /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-vga16fb.conf
You may want to stop splash from starting which is pretty ugly without the framebuffer so you can see verbose messages.