There are many different factors contributing to the allure of True Widow’s music. Perhaps it’s the beautiful male/female harmonies and counterpoint or maybe it’s the way the subsonic low end sits so heavy in your stomach, who knows… it could be the dreamy guitars that ride somewhere between space rock and sludge. Whatever the reason, there is no question that True Widow have given their sage like attention to two key ingredients, tone and tempo. The band has been describing the sound on their sophomore album As High As The Highest Heavens and From The Center to the Circumference of the Earth, as “stonegaze,” a self-coined term combining their penchant for stoner rock and shoegaze. This term is fine and dandy, though it leaves out one major genre that suits the band better than any… slowcore. Made popular in the 90’s by bands like Codeine, Low, and Red House Painters, slowcore was the non-aggressive answer to grunge, music with a minimalist approach at tempos that dripped like molasses. True Widow have pretty much blurred the lines of the two, making slow burning music that impacts like a ton of bricks when it hits. Tonality instantly becomes the focus of their sophomore record, and first for Kemado Records, much as it was on their debut. Everything the band does is heard ringing out in crystal clear perfection, reproduced flawlessly live proving this is no studio magic, but rather a crowning achievement of a band fully immersed in their sound
Bursting open with “Jackyl,” the trio wastes no time flexing their collective tone muscle, as bassist/singer Nikki Estill’s bass line rips with a corrosive beauty that will have your hairs standing on end, simply flooring everything else in its path. The cymbals crash around her echoing vocals, while the guitars deliver murkiness that pulls the entire dirge forward with glistening clarity. “Blooden Horse,” finds lead singer/guitarist Dan “D.H.” Phillips taking over on vocals, with his slow drawl and subtle melodies nearing catchy territory, if not for sounding so emotionally beaten down and detached. His voice is the perfect accompaniment for the music, stretching over the ringing guitars and slow moving rhythmic grooves with a serene abandonment. The enormous chunky bassline of “Skull Eyes” sets the tone for the fuzzy single, a rare moment in True Widow’s catalog that clocks in well under the six minute mark. Estill’s voice is haunting and gorgeous, floating above the crushing depths of her bass, easing the impenetrable fog of the primordial melody.
The massively slow “NH” creeps at a pace only slightly faster than standing still, and with the first complete vocal duet of the album, the band offers up one of their finest moments. The doomy guitars take their time pummeling the sound into the ground, while Estill and Phillip’s dazzling vocals provide balance, lifting the listener into their higher state of consciousness. There is an eerie stillness that washes over the track like the desert air, as drummer Slim Texas bashes against his cymbals, making sure their triumphant trip still has a pulse. The low end takes a stranglehold on “Boaz,” as Slim offers a tribal Native American influenced rhythm, pounding slowly for the dripping angular guitar playing and Phillip’s gentle howl echoing deep into the void. The intensity gets a boost as the guitars take a turn for the noisier, with a single commanding squeal of distortion that steers clear the general clutter associated with shoegaze. “Night Witches” sounds like the byproduct of True Widow on an adrenaline rush, with tempo to match. The band pick the pace up, way up, setting their destructive force into high gear as Phillips vocals remain ever swampy, nearly buried in the swirling fast paced storm.
“Wither,” another highlight of the record, once again finds the stunning harmonization of lead vocals from the two singers front and center, as their doomy sludge is given a bit of bluesy uplift. The guitar riff is one that would make Josh Homme proud, as it grooves with unadulterated sexual appeal over the ever thicken rhythms. True Widow offer up yet another change of pace on “Interlude,” a brief acoustic track that catches Phillips’ vocals sounding an awful lot like Kurt Cobain over gently whirring atmospherics. “Doomseer,” the swan song of As High as the Highest Heavens… leaves with a big blistering bang. The rusty and unapologetically dense tone that has become synonymous with True Widow is on full display, bleeding out in slow glory before a high pitched whistle breaks everything wide open and the band explode into interstellar territory for a warped trip through sludge at its most shimmering.