If you’re a regular on the British sludge metal circuit, you might be forgiven if you’d discovered Brighton-based Grey Widow in their infancy and dismissed them as being a little bit gimmicky. Prominent in the underground for a few years now, the short-term amusement of these miscreants’ nihilistic online persona would frankly feel rather hollow were it not backed up by some seriously menacing tunes. Menace-abound, their latest effort, II, represents a clear honing of Grey Widow’s trademark sound, and is likely to appeal to scene veterans and casual headbangers alike.
Following on from their 2014 debut, I, the four tracks here are numbered, so as not to detract from the bombastic lurch of the doom and sludge found within. Reverberating guitars and simplistic drum work combine to form a wall of sound – perhaps no surprise that Chris Fielding (Conan) handled the production job on this one. On the face of it, the song writing on II comes across as somewhat formulaic (one riff… another riff… eerie feedback-ridden interlude… massive finale riff). This would be a problem were it not for the fact that the tempos are surprisingly varied for this style of music. The band casually flit between blackened crust and stripped-down doom without ever compromising on their addictively hypnotic shunt. Momentary pauses and subtle variations in the repetitive, meat-hook riffs help to ensure that the album never descends into monotony over the course of its 37-minute run time.
While the relentless nature of Grey Widow’s approach will be too much for some, for brave souls there are plenty of moments to be savoured, particularly during the second half of the LP. XIII features an absolute bruiser of a riff which will have you gurning with twisted delight, while XIV is war-like and brooding, featuring a palm-muted, hardcore vibe and demonstrating a certain level of crossover appeal. Of course, Grey Widow are still at their absolute best when strings (and minds) are bending to form those sickly, atonal grooves which comprise the bricks and mortar of their sound. Combined with the vocalist’s strangled rasp, the middle section of XII conjures up the sort of sinister atmosphere which would give the likes of Cough or Monolord a run for their money. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but when it’s being played with this level of snarling contempt, originality becomes a bit of a moot point.
In summary, while falling short of being spectacular, Grey Widow will have well truly cemented their trademark sound into the minds of their listeners with II. Whereas the debut perhaps suffered from being a little overlong, this is an instantly engaging record which boasts enough substance to warrant plenty of repeat spins. Unashamedly brutal, this is anarchic, tar-soaked sludge for basement-dwelling sickos.
Scribed by: Jon Weatherill