Dragged Into Sunlight - Widowmaker

by Alexander Segall Rating:7 Release Date:2012-11-05

Dragged into Sunlight seem to have shunned that which they proclaim in their moniker - everything about this band is dark, from their website's blackness, to their obscured faces, to the medieval plague doctor pictures plastered all over the MySpace. Widowmaker, their second album, is one song, and 40 minutes long. This is stoner rock goes epic, and yes, it kicks off with portentous chords of doom.

The slow, low pluck and rumbling drone on until about nine minutes in, when what sounds like a violin, or possibly a fiddle, adds a little Ennio Morricone to the proceedings. While not expected, it certainly makes Liverpool's answer to Kyuss sound a tad more interesting than the initial aping of Sleep's seminal Jerusalem/Dopesmoker.

At 15 minutes in, some sampled vocals prefigure an explosion of doom-metal riffing and indistinct screams. Imagine, if you will, Mogwai and their ilk cranking up the anger and removing the wit, and unleashing all their pent-up angst down the microphone, and you have the slow, head-bobbing atmosphere. It's pretty good, mind you, although not exactly something you can simply slip on and enjoy - this is an album to sit down to, engage with, and concentrate on.

The vocals that suddenly appear at 18 minutes, along with a more upbeat riff, are grimier and more guttural. Frankly, they can't be deciphered without a lyric sheet, but generally, that's the point - this is for the listener to lose themselves in, and construct a world around the soundscape. Bob Dylan this ain't. Keeping personality away from the whole shebang seemingly works, as this sounds very much like a collective work. With band members simply called T, A, A, J, C and A, this fits in with a lot of the avant-garde scene's dislike of information. Here, however, there's a lot more hair and lot more growling.

Another change of tack kicks in at 22 minutes, possibly the beginning of Part II. More sampled vocals float over a (you guessed it) brutal doom-laden guitar riff, but with more evidence of one of the A's electronics mixed higher up in the murk. Unlike the first wave of doomy stoner bands, this has been beautifully produced, even if it sounds pretty nasty; there's not a whiff of Venom's mind-bogglingly bad thrash-in-a-trash-can sonics, more an updated Sabbath doing naughty things to every post-rock band sound. There's even the possibility of a guitar solo (even a wah-pedal) around 26 minutes, and then it all falls apart into a morass of feedback and big drum crashes, screams and wails.

Looking at the clock, with 10 minutes to go, you might want to turn the bass dial down on your hi-fi at this point, as an extended bass drone, straight out of the Sunn O))) catalogue is coming your way. Semi-aimless guitar moments ride the crest of this particular chest-rattling wave, leading into Part III's chug and grind. There's nothing different here, stylistically, until the riffing and screaming suddenly drop out into an almost pretty arpeggiated passage, returning to (almost) the original theme. A brief interlude of manic metal resumes, and then an almost martial passage of drumming under some very Mogwai-ish elements rounds out the last couple of minutes... Until the thrash riffs, and the blastbeats kick in.

Once you've gone full circle with Widowmaker for 40 minutes, you need a lie down. For extreme metal, doom rock and stoner music, this sort of thing is oft-tried, and rarely successful. Dragged into Sunlight take you down some very dark pathways on this LP, but eventually, you do reach the day.

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