Widows
Oh Deer God
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Any band that uses the line, “Take a drink, before the drink takes you,” immediately scores a few points in my book.  That’s a damn good, witty line appearing in the title track that I wish I thought of.  UK’s crusty, hardcore sludgers Widows just checked my king and smashed the chessboard over my head.  These sickos have been around since 2008 but this is the first time that they’ve appeared on my radar.  Prior outings included a single, an EP and a debut LP, Death Valley DuchessOh Deer God is the band’s second album helping and it’s a damn fine slab of rotgut riffage, overdriven rhythms, punk-rock attitude and snarling Marlboro-smoked vocal shouts.

The aforementioned title track kicks things off with the swinging shitkicker blues of Scissorfight, Clutch and Backwoods Payback’s Self-Titled run through a meatslicer of mangled Iron Monkey/Cathedral tonalities.  This vomit-soaked, puke in beard ditty relies on a fuzz-smothered, repetitive riff set on permanent “kill” mode with potbellied bass smudges and locked on drumming settling into a furiously furry, hardcore stoner groove.  Widows aren’t a one trick pony though as the midsection’s whiplash snare bursts and shredding riffs toss in a little crust punk and later on a smooth melodic section with soulful blues grooves and Danzig-esque vocal chants injects some unique identity into the chaos.  There’s even some sonic blasts in the latter half of the track recalling Louisiana legends Soilent Green and even if the outcome is not quite that intense, the band’s intentions are cut from the same kinda oily cloth that you’ll be wringing swamp murk out of said rag for days on end.

“Caffeine and Hatred” is a Smog Monster sized suffocation of thrash speeds milk fed from the sludgy udder of some Mad Cow Disease infected bovine beast.  Calling to mind Cavity’s violent outbursts on crust spittin’ classics like “Angelrust” and “9 Fingers on the Spider;” the drumming is in near blast-beat mode, the guitars cut flesh like a circular saw in shop class and all the while broken glass lunged vocalist Adam Jolliffe horks up mucous-y mid-ranged roars.  Thicker, more coherent sludgy rock grooves collide with stop/start, double-bass centered backbeats on the twitchy “Heresy and Venom.”  The leather coat wearin’, roughhewn motorcycle wreck carnage goes from a crunching Orange Goblin swagger to off-the-wall noise rock style change-ups overloaded with punk energy to a murdering muck fuck thrash set somewhere between Slayer, Desolatevoid and Soilent Green.  James Kidd’s quick fingered lead lick scattershots add a touch of finesse as bassist Phil Emblin anchors the band’s torpedo blasted hull with enough weight to keep the ship from taking on too much water and sinking outright.

Though operating on the dusty desert side of the tracks with their core sound, Widows frequently swap styles and tempos to keep things interesting.  “Blue Tina” is another fine example of the band’s variety, kicking off the maelstrom with cowbell and bendy southern-fried riffage in the key of ZZ Top before sheer riff thickness butts heads with hearty, blues-burnt vocal growls and Ze Big’s pounding straight rock beats morphing into thrash-y, psychotic snare fills.  The groove is constantly building in this behemoth, often reinventing itself from a churning 70s grumble to a punked-up spray of head-nod inducing filth.  Hell, the closing rally filters its catchy blues into a crust-addled doom drunk with higher-pitched vocal screams to match the musical insanity for a particularly heart attack inciting display of madness.  Sparse, hope-dashing bass heft gives way to bluesy hard rock chords planted beneath a 4/4 rock stomp and squalor-drenched feedback during the opening moments of the massive 7 minute sprawl of “Ride to the Realm of Coitus.”  That’s a fuckin’ cool song-title that I’ll be damned for not thinking of.  Once the guitars kick in the sickly stink of Ohio/Nola sludge comes wriggling like a nightcrawler hung to the hook of death.  Any semblance of traditional Kyussisms is quickly eviscerated by a hurricane of up-tempo doom riffs hyper-charged by overly aggressive thrash drum beatings and moonshined vocal blackouts.  Double-tracked guitars make for some incisive harmonic displays with the speedy tempo-blowouts reducing themselves to noxious sludge chugs in all of the right moments.  3:08 brings THE almighty riff full-circle for a groove so lethal it could either end nuclear war or start it.  This is my no-brainer pick for album standout.  90 mph road rage rubber burn returns soon after the elephant shit huffin’ groove but the track culminates with another battle-weathered run for the Louisiana border where old school classic rock rules the land.

Avoiding the common plague of lesser riff-informed, modern hard rock bands, Widows’ agility and dexterity remains a key component of “Baron Greenback Blues.”  Here the boys let in plenty of Lemmy worship in order to keep their vomit drinkin’ sludge/blues movin’ at a clip guaranteed to mow down a sidewalk full of daydreaming passerbys without the law even blinking an eye or firing up a siren.  Closer “Germanium Buzz” further illustrates that Widows are not a band content to stay in one singular place.  The intro is bathed in 70s blues-rock with cleaner guitars, well-defined bass hooks and lockstep time-keeping, lending Jolliffe and Emblin a crystalline canvas to paint gruff whiskey singing and melodic back-up vocals upon.  It’s equally hard drivin’ and laid-back where slinky wah-pedal licks beam sunshine on a dreary, drizzle speckled sky.  Once the main riff takes hold it’s an unstoppable high-energy rollick of deeply impacted doom-y grooves, Ze Big’s whopper snare/tom devastation and soaring sun sinking leads.  They couldn’t have picked a better closer and even when Widows are at their most tried n’ true core of the heavy riff genre, well, the band somehow always finds a few tricks to implement to make their songwriting stick out.

Oh Deer God is a fuckin’ killer stoner/hard-rock outing that just happens to gleefully blur the lines between sludge, hardcore, thrash and punk.  No two tracks sound exactly alike and each tune manages to sneak in enough hooks and shifts to render the songs memorability without sacrificing any nastiness whatsoever.  These cats do the heavy Cali/Nola/Ohio/UK riff domination goddamn well and anyone into a different trip on the style’s core ethos would do well to check ‘em out!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
June 29th, 2017

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