Wednesday, April 20, 2011
As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center To the Circumference of the Earth - True Widow
As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center To the Circumference of the Earth
SCQ Rating: 79%
On the eve of their debut release, I excitedly directed a friend to True Widow’s blog, which features teaser videos and band-written preambles. As someone sensitive to video’s ability to coerce music into a lifestyle brand, I’ve since sort of regretted providing that link. Don’t get me wrong: the videos are well executed and provide visceral photography of the band’s latent intensity, but they also offer a deductive first impression. As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center To the Circumference of the Earth should be the statement in these videos, and not merely a soundtrack for the shots of tattoos and spliffs that garner ample screen time.
No offense intended to skin-ink or weed – both have a deserving spot as accessories on rock’s mantle – but those videos merely overstate what True Widow’s full-length already illustrates on its own: dark and powerful snapshots of a sprawling Americana. From the thunderous low-end that brings ‘Jackal’ to life, this self-described “Stonegaze” band wields genuine intent, merging a heavy dissonance against Nicole Estill’s understated coos. The effect – both cutting and comatose – proves a launching point for the remainder of the disc, which gravitates toward both the epic (‘Boaz’) and straightforward, metal end (‘Night Witches’) of the band’s scope. Although Estill’s voice ushers As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center To the Circumference of the Earth into earshot, Dan “D.H.” Phillips handles the majority of vocal-duties from here on in. His first cut, ‘Blooden Horse’, happens to be the record’s best; a bare-boned electric guitar progression – reminiscent of Sun Kil Moon – which carries the band’s looming squall. A surprising amount of melody survives the record’s incessant growl, however, some of it chiming in like the heroic guitars that rise over ‘NH’, other parts soaring like the backing-vocals on ‘Skull Eyes’.
What’s so captivating about True Widow, in both set-up and songwriting, is that nothing here seems contrived or embellished. This trio feels no need to decode the cryptic nature of their lyrics, to dress up or excuse their heaviness as anything other than honest expression. And this core strength abolishes all that’s superficially interesting about the band. I don’t understand how any high person can listen to a track like ‘Doomseer’ without ending up in the fetal position but, clearly, True Widow’s “Stonegaze” has its sights set. As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center To the Circumference of the Earth's purpose reverberates far further than even its title suggests.