True Widow stay true to their darkness, fog on mesmerizing ‘Circumambulation’

true widow

As we noted earlier this week, there are bands that have a way of doing things that probably won’t change any time soon and really should not anyway. That was said about Coffins in our review on Tuesday, and they’ve made a killer career cranking out doomy death that rarely takes contains any creative changes from what they’ve done in the past. And it’s always awesome.

Another band in that same territory is Dallas trio True Widow, a band that’s slowly been moving their way up the ranks since their formation and now find themselves on the mighty Relapse, whose releases have dominated our site this week. Ever since their formation in 2007, the band has perfecting its calculated stonergaze sound that might not exactly be heavy metal (which Decibel recently pointed out in a useless, childishly written review that benefitted no one) but surely have enough crossover appeal that they should be just want someone needs to chill out and let your mind wander. Imagine a burlier Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine, and you’d have a pretty good idea of what you’ll get when you tackle True Widow and their excellent third album “Circumambulation.”

true widow coverBuried in the band’s noise and psychedelic glaze are some sticky melodies and airy vocal work, no matter who is singing, and their creations can be labeled as mood music because you’ll get a great chance to explore some of the darker emotions clogging your soul. It’s perfect for sitting, reaching out, and identifying with your demons. The band has dual heads vocally, as guitarist Dan Phillips and bassist Nicole Estill take turns at the mic, while drummer Timothy “Slim” Starks back them up with the perfect pacing and pockets of groove-heavy beats, acting as a rock-solid backbone. Phillips and Estill generally don’t interact with each other vocally during the songs, as each get to have a share of the spotlight, though they do sometimes appear together finishing each other’s sentences.

If you have followed the band since their 2008 self-titled debut and onto their tremendous Kemado-released “As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth” from 2011, you won’t find yourself lost on this one. As hinted, the band really hasn’t altered its formula much, if at all, over the years, and you’ll get no complaint from me. This band has a great, hazy formula that sets them apart from every other band on Relapse’s label, and while their sound isn’t wholly unique, you still know when you’re hearing True Widow. That’s because their music has a shadowy personality that’s all their own, and all three of these artists inject parts of themselves into the band to give it its character. I unabashedly love this band, and “Circumambulation” only amplifies that adoration.

The record opens with “Creeper,” a song that lives up to its name as it sneaks behind you and, before you know it, it’s right by your side. Like the rest of the record, the Philips-led lurker seems crafted perfectly for those humid summer days when the air is so thick that is steams your windows, and when he levels with you admitting, “I need to make my escape,” you wonder if you shouldn’t do the same. “S:H:S,” one of the band’s handful of weirdly titled songs, is eerie, buzzing, and dreary, and it’s a nice partner if you’re stuck in the rain. “Four Teeth” puts Estill in front of the band, and her breathy, atmospheric vocal melodies drive the song and give it its pumping heart. “Numb Hand” is sleepy, not in a way that denotes dullness, but in a manner that eases and relaxes you, even if you’re entering into thick darkness with no indication of what’s on the other side.

“Trollstigen” is another shining moment for Estill, as she is in steady command of this 7:19-long crawler that’s rich in reverb and rolls over you like a smooth-moving but heavy wave. “I:M:O” (not to be confused with their mammoth track “I.N.O.” from their EP of the same name) has slinky guitar work, hazy buzzing, and warm plodding that makes this instrumental tasty and boozy. “HW:R” is a satisfying slow burner, with Phillips and Estill trading the mic (he’s on verses, she delivers the velvety chorus), and this cut feels like the ease your body slips into right as you’re lured into slumber. Closer “Lungr” has dark guitars chiming out, noisy wails, and Estill’s moody vocals that drop like drapery over the song and easily claim you as its captive. My guess is you won’t be struggling to get out of the band’s clutches.

True Widow are a special band, one that I’ve followed hungrily ever since hearing their music for the first time. It wouldn’t feel right if they tried to make a thrash album or adjusted their sound to make more people comfortable, because that would prevent them from being who they are. “Circumambulation” is another strong step forward for the band, and it can be argued it’s their best one yet. It’s been a steady companion many evenings while trying to decompress from the day, and it’s one that, like all of their other releases, will be a friend I go back to often. Everyone, no matter how rowdy and brutal your record collection may be, needs some time to pull things back and slip unseen into the darkness, and True Widow can be your cover.

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One thought on “True Widow stay true to their darkness, fog on mesmerizing ‘Circumambulation’

  1. Pingback: Album of the day: True Widow - Circumambulation - Roadburn

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