Dragged Into Sunlight’s nightmarish ‘WidowMaker’ is one of the year’s best

I’m sort of obsessed with serial killers, as my wife can attest. Uh, let me explain that. If there’s a marathon on Biography or some other cable channel about serial killers, good luck removing me from in front of the television. I don’t admire the murderers, let me be clear about that, but I am fascinated by what makes people act the way they do and what causes humans to kill methodically.

There’s a psychosis and a sickness to these people, but also a lifetime of sadness, neglect, and misunderstanding for the most part. Generally serial killers are not from normal, stabilized backgrounds, and even if they achieve a modicum (or more) of success during their live doing things other than killing, there’s still that underlying disease. Something has scarred these people, sickened them, and it has remained a dominant part of their lives. It’s almost like they need these kills to stay alive themselves. It’s an utterly terrifying proposition.

This brings us to Dragged Into Sunlight, the UK-based doom/death merchants whose identities are unknown and who perform in executioner-style masks. How fitting. Their music is suffocating, powerful, and pretty scary, but not from some ghoul-and-goblin standpoint. They espouse human hatred and suffering, psychological torture, and fear mongering, things that affect human beings in a real, non-horror-film kind of way. These are tangible things that impact people of all walks of life every day, and this band immerses themselves into the nuances of it all to make the sickest, most deranged music possible. Their live performances, so I hear, are beasts unto themselves.

November is a weird time to greet one of the best, most unforgettable metal albums of the year, but that’s just what we’re doing with “WidowMaker,” the band’s sophomore effort and follow-up to 2009’s “Hatred for Mankind.” When I got this record, I was in sunny, warm Rehoboth Beach on vacation with my wife, and despite the relaxation and happiness of being away and around sources of great beer, I downloaded this murky bastard anyway and listened poolside and on the shore. And I listened again and again, and I became obsessed, and suddenly our nighttime conversation turned to the black, uncomfortable feelings I got from the album (I mean that as a positive) as well as the samples the band selected, that are comprised of quotes from serial killers.

The band, while unforgivingly heavy and violent, also does a fantastic job creating atmospheres, as creepy and horrific as those may be. You’re not constantly being clubbed over the head by these mysterious creatures — T on vocals, A on guitars, C on bass, J on drums — because often they make you sit bound and gagged so that you can emotionally absorb the carnage in front of you. You’re made to sit and wait, suffer the psychological torture, and eventually go back to the beating that certainly will end badly for you. While these guys may not be serial killers (that we know of), they have the proper mentality of picking a victim and slowly, methodically breaking down the subject. Their music is a spiritual flaying on every level, each cut driven by hatred.

The album begins oddly, with a 14:51 instrumental “Part I,” the longest track on the record. Before the music really even gets a chance to set in, you’re hearing from murderer Tommy Lynn Sells, as he creepily recounts his work saying, “I like to watch their eyes fade, their pupils fade. It’s like setting their soul free.” Pure madness. The song itself is full of oxygen and colorful compositions, with thick strings, somber clean guitars, and a scene that grows more terrifying as the song goes on. Finally, we hear Richard Ramirez, “The Nightstalker,” question the validity of his sickness and make a fairly cogent, yet twisted, thought about how his crimes are no different than how societies and nations formed to begin with. Then shit gets real.

“Part II” continues the story with the bludgeoning beginning right away. Harsh shrieks and howls, a black doom gallop, and mucky tempos arise and begin the kill with reckless abandon. The track lasts 11:48, and it’s both astonishing and exhausting, demanding every ounce of your energy. They hit pockets of furious thrashing, a section halfway through the song that made me want to throw nails at children, and eventually the strings return to add an extra layer of macabre, as if they needed to do that! Our morbid tale ends on “Part III,” a 13:11 closer that’s the nosiest, most experimental of all the selections, with noise hissing, shrieks tearing through your nervous system, and even some prog-fueled playing to intrigue you before they cut the cord. It’s heavy, spacey, and disturbing, and when we get our final message from a killer, about his desire to go back to slaying. It’s a seedy, gory look into the psyche of permanently warped individual who deserves a life behind bars.

This material is sure to disturb, even offend some listeners, and the words you hear coming from killers’ mouths is enough to keep you awake at night. But bottom line is this is one of the best metal releases of the year, one that as of this writing is vying for a top spot on my 2012 list. This band already was a monster, but they’ve added layers and shed flesh in such a way that they are ready to declare themselves one of metal’s most dangerous, unpredictable, frightening beasts. If one day they’re leading the rest of a murderous pack of followers, remember their reign of terror all started with “WidowMaker,” a record that’ll change your sleeping patterns to keep you nightmares at bay.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.draggedintosunlight.co.uk/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/16739/

For more on the label, go here: http://prostheticrecords.com/