Album Review: A.H.A.T.H.H.A.F.T.C.T.T.C.O.T.E. by True Widow
Excellent, Based on 8 Critics
Drowned In Sound - 100 Based on rating 10/10
As soon as the grinding, distorted bass kicked in on the opening track 'Jackyl', it became clear that to me True Widow had cracked it. They'd done something bands do once in a career, if they're lucky, and that's sound almost entirely different to everyone else. That's much harder to do than it used to be, as it happens. Without the weight of history, bands with enough talent could literally walk into their niches.
Hard to remember the title of, but much easier to listen to... True Widow evoke ritual doom metal but raise the creative stakes with a general likeability, which in this slow-burning musical genre is rare. Pounding riffs create a crushed shoegaze sound while murky guitars form the album’s backbone. ‘Blooden Horse’ sets the album up for a ketamine-induced trip, but as bassist Nikki Cage comes to the fore on songs ‘Jackyl’ and ‘Skull Eyes’ there’s a shift in dynamics as her vocals push the band into sultry terrain.
Existing in a murky haze somewhere between drone and the slacker rock, True Widow weave together heaviness and harmony on their sophomore album, As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth. With a guitar sound that’s not so much detuned as it is shuddering, the band explores the vast and lonely depths of the sonic spectrum. Preventing the album from slipping into the territory of glacial doom, however, are the vocals.
Common wisdom has it that a band’s second album is a proving ground. Whatever novelty it had from the debut has worn out; either the band can rest on its laurels and repeat its successful performance or else find something new that pushes boundaries. On True Widow’s follow up to 2008’s solid self-titled debut, the Texas trio takes a third but equally successful route: the band pares its sound down to its barest elements and thus bests its earlier album at its own game.
On True Widow's second album, the marathon-titled As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth, the Texas slowcore trio dedicates itself so intensely to creating suffocatingly heavy and slow-moving tracks that you wouldn't be surprised to see clouds of humidity-induced fog coming out of their headphones. This strict aesthetic adherence leads to an album that does not really necessitate individual track descriptions, a potential deathblow to some groups. But to the band's great credit, they've crafted an album that satisfies a very primal part of music listening.
The group of musicians loosely (and reluctantly, on their part) grouped under the slowcore moniker in the early 90s left behind a glut of material that's ripe for rediscovery. Leading lights Low have carved out an enduring legacy, but their former peers, including the desolate sounds of former Sub Pop act Codeine, Jeff Martin's brittle Idaho, and hushed Trance Syndicate signings Bedhead, are rarely cited as touchstones by contemporary artists. The slowcore approach ostensibly took impossibly sad material, both musically and lyrically, and pushed it into a hemmed-in framework, where feelings of agitation and despair were expressed in the same forlorn way as a resigned late-night drinker slumped over his umpteenth whiskey at the bar.
It didn’t take long for True Widow’s dreary, dissociative self-titled debut to earn the Texas threesome a cult following among indie metal fans. Debuts that showcase a distinctive new sound always make for hot topics in the blogosphere, all the more so when that sound comes prepackaged with a clever catchphrase. True Widow calls their menacing brand of guitar rock “stonegaze,” which is amusing enough that you can forgive its inaccuracy.
Texan trio delivers a treat of a second album, turning slowcore dynamics up to 11. Mike Diver 2011 Don’t let that unwieldy album title put you off asking after True Widow’s second LP at your local record store: this is one of the finest rock albums of the year so far. Taking cues from grunge, slowcore, stoner-rock and shoegaze, the Texan trio have crafted a nine-track opus which is as exquisite of elegant detail as it is exemplary of skull-rumbling riff.