Widow - Life's blood 4.5/5

Reviewed: 1-1-12


1. Lady twilight
2. In dreams
3. Take hold of the night
4. Another fallen angel
5. Embrace it
6. Behind the light
7. The burning ones
8. Live beyond
9. Judgment day
10. I scream for ice queen
11. Remembering
12. The one I know

“Take the streets at dark/Can’t find you in the daaayyy-yyyyeah/I’m on my way.” So begins the 4th CD from the fun-loving, heavy-drinking, night-obsessed traditional metallers in Widow. And it really is a perfect way to kick things off. Despite releasing some killer CDs over the last decade, the trio from North Carolina has been flying under the radar - low, fast and just out of sight - for a long time. However, that may be changing. The new CD, ‘Life’s blood’, marks Widow’s first output with Germany’s revered Pure Steel Records, who in my humble view have become the premier record label for high quality old-school traditional metal acts from around the globe. More importantly, this CD represents a creative rebirth for the band, a distillation and refinement of their musical essence, and a powerful statement that they can go toe to toe with anyone, anywhere. ‘Life’s blood’ conveys a certain clarity of vision, a sense of focus, both musically and lyrically, that maybe wasn’t there before. The promise of greatness that Widow have shown since the ‘Midnight strikes’ CD has at last been fulfilled.

Don’t get me wrong: This CD sounds like Widow, through and through. There have been no drastic stylistic changes. The core elements of the band’s unique hybrid of traditional metal, NWOBHM, and 80s hard rock remain fully intact. The CD is strewn with those amazing characteristic harmony guitars for miles, catchy melodies and attitude-laden clear vocals that have become Widow’s calling card over the years. If you’re familiar with any of Widow’s back catalogue, you’ll surely recognize ‘Life’s blood’ as the work of the same band within seconds after any song kicks in. But closer scrutiny reveals some subtle changes afoot, a tightening of the screws if you will, that has sharpened Widow’s attack to a razor-fine edge this time around. For starters, the sometimes distracting harsh vocals previously furnished by guitarist Chris Bennett have vanished into the night, replaced instead by a greater emphasis on clean harmony vocals, with bassist/lead vocalist John E. Wooten meshing perfectly with drummer/backing vocalist Peter Lemieux. Next, Bennett’s lyrics for the first time tackle more serious, personal topics (“Remembering”, “Another fallen angel”, for example), along with the usual good-times fodder, but never descending into goofy eye-rolling material like “Preacher’s daughter” or “Teacher’s pet” or “Family affair” from previous CDs.

At the end of the day, what really makes ‘Life’s blood’ stick out is that every single one of the 12 songs on display is a bona fide, card-carrying, unapologetic ass kicker. There is no filler, no lulls. You will never, ever, ever want to push the “skip” button while spinning this sucker. And if you do, you should have your head examined. Fiery anthems like “Take hold of the night” (that intro riff gets my vote for best riff of 2011), “Lady twilight”, “Judgment day”, and “The one I know” grab you by the throat and don’t let go. More nuanced material like “Another fallen angel”, “Behind the light”, and “Remembering” is every bit as effective, even as it eases off the gas pedal. It would be silly to keep naming highlights. Every song is one. That’s the point. And the individual band member performances are of the highest level. Bennett delivers a clinic of headbanging riffs, hummable harmonies and smoking leads. Wooten sings his ass off, ratcheting up the attitude and emotion like never before. And Lemieux propels the whole machine forward even as he adds cool little touches here and there that make the songs better.

In the interest of full disclosure, I gotta admit that my wife and I spent some time this fall on the road out west with the Widow dudes. Together we met Lemmy at the Rainbow, partied on the Interstate through epic traffic jams in the desert, and subsisted on granola bars, alcohol and Whataburger for days on end. Does that make me biased? Duh, of course it does. Whatever. What I know in my blackened metal heart is this: If I could listen to only 4 U.S. metal CDs released in 2011, I’d pick Twisted Tower Dire ‘Make it dark’, Cage ‘Supremacy of steel’, Argus ‘Boldly stride the doomed’, and Widow ‘Life’s blood’. If I could listen to just one, ‘Life’s blood’ might get the nod. See you in the night, my friends...




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