When Def Leppard came up with the name Bludgeon Riffola for their record label maybe, just maybe, Joe Elliot and chums looked into the future, heard Nottingham’s Widows, thought “Yes! That’s for us, we’ll have some of THAT!” and coined the phrase based upon the bludgeoning riffage that they heard through that speculative rip in the fabric of time and space.
Of course, the Lepps youthful idealism has looooong since vanished up the bloated spandex-clad-and-bemulleted arse of desperately naff corporate cheese-o-rama but, thankfully, Widows are keepin’ that rockin’ dream alive with almost enough vim, verve and vigour to make up for the excoriating vortex of suck that is Def Leppard.
Widows play it tight, deft, nimble and fierce – fleet-fingered burning bluesy riffs tumbling forth from guitarist James Kidd’s fingers as drummer Steve Mellor scampers nimbly around the kit, bassist Rob Stringer brings the thunder and full-throated vocalist Adam Jolliffe gargles with Jack Daniels and hot gravel. Reminiscent at times of a hopped-up Clutch at their most stripped-down and deadly, Widows are a razor-sharp rockin’ machine.
Those of you with functioning long-term memories may remember that I reviewed, and greatly enjoyed, Widows’ debut EP Raise The Monolith back in 2010 for this very site. Well, three of the four tracks from that recording – ‘Fuck Knuckle’, ‘The Kiss Of Failure’ and ‘Whores Of Babylon’ – are reprised on Death Valley Duchess in punchy, shiny new versions along with five brand spanking new tracks of a similar calibre.
Opener ‘Green Tsunami’ sets the pace and tone for what follows, a whirlwind of ferocious bluesy blunt-nosed metal riffing driven by Mellor’s kit-scouring drumming and Jolliffe’s whisky-sodden bark. From ‘Goat Lab’, through ‘Truckules’ to ‘Something For Deities’, Widows don’t let up. Riffs keep tumbling and Jolliffe keeps on a-barking, right the way up until final track ‘Parentheses’, wherein things slow right down to grinding doom-speed after an initial frenzy.
As with their debut, Clutch and the first Sixty-Watt Shaman LP are foremost in my mind as far as points of reference, but Widows are sharper, lacking the fuzz and wooliness inherent in most bands tagged as ‘stoner rock’. Much sharper, with a real fierce hardcore edge, mostly brought on by Kidd’s scything guitar-tone, Jolliffe’s lungbusting vocals and their propensity for velocity.
I have to admit to having lost track of Widows following Raise The Monolith, so finding out about and hearing Death Valley Duchess has been the most pleasant of surprises, and it more than fulfils my prophecy about the band going on to better things after such an impressive start. Clearly they deserve more and wider coverage and exposure than their current label can give them, I think some enterprising label really ought to snatch ’em up and put ’em out on tour pronto, then maybe they’ll really be able to take things as far as they can, as, based on this and previous evidence they’ve got what it takes to pull it off with aplomb. Hell, they’re the band that hypothetically inspired Def Leppard!
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Scribed by: Paul Robertson