Adhering to a formula or recipe is a fail-safe way not to totally eff something up and/or ruin it completely. Following the instructions and ingredients to the letter might seem like a non-adventurous way to do things, but it also means something that shouldn’t be in your concoction—ketchup in a chocolate cake mix—remains out of the way.
You can say Dallas trio True Widow have perfected their slow-gaze recipe the past few years and have followed it nearly to a fault. The band’s records and music essentially can be anticipated pretty closely, and any steering from the path is done carefully and with plenty of forward thinking and precision. That might sound like a boring way to make rock music, and for some it is, but it works for True Widow. Their fourth record “Avvolgere” treads a similar path as their last album, 2013’s “Circumambulation,” but it does so in a tried-and-true, steady manner where you get the exact fix for need from the band. Granted, True Widow have tested and experimented with what they do, and the period that followed 2011’s “As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth” is where they seem to have perfected their formula. If anything, this new album tightens up those reigns, and the band sounds damn good doing it.
Having done their thing for almost the past decade, True Widow also have carved out a nice following and one of those special slots where they’d sound perfectly sharing a stage with bands from any number of styles—shoegaze, doom, post-rock, you name it. The group—guitarist/vocalist D.H. Phillips, bassist/vocalist Nicole Estill, drummer Timothy “Slim” Starks—are a well-oiled machine over these 10 tracks, keeping the pace rumbling and every now and again shooting out of their comfort zone for some added color. They may not be wildly experimental on “Avvolgere,” but they deliver strong, consistent sounds in a way only they can, numbing your overworked brain in the process.
“Back Shredder” kicks off everything, with noise swimming in the air, riffs chugging, and Phillips taking the lead. The track buzzes along, with the guitars lighting up later, and a strong charge taking you to the end. “Theurgist” has a steely riff and the bassline sliding under the thunder. The track has some thick ’90s-style fuzz, with Phillips posing, “I’ll never know just why you’ve come to me,” as the tempo pushes nicely and gets the blood moving. “F.W.T.S:L.T.M.” is another of the band’s oddly titled songs we’ve come to love. The drums move steadily, with a dreamy, humid pace, as Phillips pokes, “They said I’d never come around, but I bet I come around tonight.” The pace is calculated and simmering, with the song coming to chilled-out end. “The Trapper & the Trapped” has slurry guitars, with Phillips and Estill sharing the vocals. It’s sort of a call-and-response style, with him handling more of the chorus, and all along, the rhythm pelts and the guitars bristle. “O.O.T.P.V” is a cool one, with Phillips quipping, “Sooner or later, I’m gonna get tired,” and later on the chorus he levels, “I try to run away, but I can’t seem to run.” It’s a catchy song, and the chorus will glue itself to your brain.”
“Entheogen” has guitars waking up and pushing the tide, with Phillips speak singing, almost like Tom Petty at his sneeriest. The tempo and feelings are dark and foreboding here, bringing in a different atmosphere to the proceedings. “To All That He Elong” is a bit of a curveball, led by acoustic guitars and Estill cutting through with her singing. As the song goes along, the drums echo and the guitars squeak away. “Sante” is a great cut, one of the best in the band’s history, and again Estill leads the charge. The chorus really hammers hard, feeling a bit like an old Pixies song, with her challenging, “Take me away, take me right now.” “Grey Erasure” lets riffs rise and the drums punch some holes. “Something’s out to get me,” Phillips warns, as the track reflects his paranoia and fear with murky guitars and a crumbling finish. Closer “What Finds Me” is a strong final statement, with Estill sifting through changing emotions and the evolution of what moves her, noting, “As the years go by, I will change my mind.” This is a great last burst, with Estill and Phillips harmonizing and then everything dissolving into cosmic dust.
You always have a pretty good idea what to expect with a True Widow record, and that’s not a bad thing at all. “Avvolgere” is well played, cuts right through you, and should leave your head buzzing as you take on these 10 songs. As long as True Widow keep treading this path, they’ll be a reliable, bruising band always willing to give you a dose of the good stuff only they can make this well.
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