Widows – Death Valley Duchess

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Review by Will Harris

Bad News Records

If it’s not clear where Nottingham stoner rockers Widows’ minds are from the title of their debut album Death Valley Duchess, then it’s obvious from the album’s closing track, a dusty, serene instrumental accompanied by oral accounts of life (and its end) in California’s Death Valley. By the time you’ve reached that point, however, you knew that anyway; there’s enough nitro-driven desert rock here to make almost any review of Death Valley Duchess make references to Palm Desert pioneers Kyuss. They’re by no means a clone band though: across the nine-track, 34-minute record you can also hear the attitude-spewing hard sludge of Down and the blues-heavy lick-riffs of Clutch (as it happens, these also turned out to be the three main influences stated on Widows’ Bandcamp page). The result is a pull-no-punches, beefy bar brawl of a sound that’s as rousing as it is moshable.

And it really is music made for headbanging to: during big-riff songs like ‘Kiss of Failure’ and ‘Truckules’ you can almost feel the beer and sweat dripping from every cab, every cymbal and singer Adam Jolliffe’s well-rattled mic. Jolliffe roars with unrelenting power on every track he appears on, the kind of scream designed to incite riots and slam pits, the near-perfect accompaniment to the all-band-blazing furore going on behind him. The vocals could nevertheless be handled a bit better: it’s often quite difficult to make out all the lyrics, and though it might be metal, with a sound as immediate and in-your-face as Widows’ a hook to shout along to can only make the impact more infectious. Furthermore, as many of the vocal lines are quite similar, imperceptible lyrics have the effect of making each song a little less distinguishable.

All that considered, there’s plenty enough variety here: ‘Truckules’ takes furious amphetamine blues to a steady-toke chorus and a slamming outro, and tracks like ‘Whores of Babylon’ and ‘Something For Deities’ reinvent the classic blues shuffle for a metal audience. At the centre of all this whiskey and wickedness is Widows’ most musically diverse and possibly best song, the uncompromising ‘Kiss of Failure’, which amidst the band’s already established blues sound places Thin Lizzy-like harmonised guitars, a metalcore middle eight and a breakdown Pantera would’ve been proud of. The aforementioned atmospheric title track, all drawn-out bass and subtle, more textural guitars, meanwhile provides a gentle hangover-companion and proves Widows are no one-trick pony. And it’s no filler track either; you need such a come-down after the non-stop all-night bender that is Death Valley Duchess.

Widows – Death Valley Duchess7 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Green Tsunami
  2. Goat Lab
  3. Fuck Knuckle
  4. Truckules
  5. Kiss of Failure
  6. Whores of Babylon
  7. Something for Deities
  8. Parentheses
  9. Death Valley Duchess

 

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