Music Reviews

True Widow Circumambulation

(Relapse) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

When placing emphasis on doom metal as a stylistic device, there’s always the expectation that it will be paced in a sluggish manner. We’re conditioned to the creeping slowness and disharmony that afflicts our senses, kept in a droning, unchanging tone that’s anything but dynamic. Texan trio True Widow have been gradually mastering the exercise of calculated pacing without even considering the genre’s usual trappings, though they’ve come close to emulating it by sheer coincidence. Perhaps it’s due to how they approximate pop approachability in the least obvious way, conveying a grayish hue of murky beauty that’s constantly brought them comparisons to the white-noise effects of shoegaze. It can be credited to the malleable nature of their compositions, usually enveloped in a foreboding haze of looming might. Nevertheless, they’ve undermined the sullen nature of the music by coining it “stonegaze”, inserting some humor into this classification before some disadvantaged blogger grabs a hold of it.

It’s not that far off from what True Widow want to accomplish, though. Or at least wanted to at one point, since Circumambulation practically evades any trace of sheen that was found on their two previous efforts. The differences are minimal but not predictable, lying somewhere between sludgy stoner metal and expansive, yet acute rhythmic precision; it’s their ability to never stand on solid ground that elevates their caliginous mid-tempo tunes. The sepulchral Creeper instantly evokes the image of entering a cavernous vaulted space in solitary confinement, slowly fading with amplified fuzz as it transitions into S:H:S, which slightly picks up the tempo as a thick, droning progression steams with interminable force. Numb Hand is one of the more melodically resonant numbers in the album, providing some respite just like Skull Eyes did in As High as the Highest Heavens..., employing a minor tonality even if it vamps with a heavy riff. It confirms the direction that True Widow wanted to take – emphasize groove over squelching jams that have the slightest interest in inviting descriptions like "feedback" or "dreamlike haze" into the lexicon of Circumambulation

During the latter half of Circumambulation is when we finally get a chance to peer through a glass darkly, in which Nicole Estill’s entrancing vocals will some clarity into the overcast atmosphere; closer Lungr especially, which ends with an almost uplifting dirge even when the fuzz-guitar tones are just as monochromatic. But none are more representative of what the album wants to truly emote than in Trollstigen, a sluggish, yet mesmerizing seven minutes of thick noise that fosters a ubiquitous palm-muted note over a summoning chant. Once it concludes with hardly any variation, there’s a better understanding of how True Widow operates – instead of merely changing the setting, they adopt from what they’ve tested before and commit to a specific, all-consuming mood. There are hardly any answers found in Circumambulation, but that’s expected from a band that relishes in their abstruse, encoded messaging. As the title implies, it circulates without cease, continuously pounding the senses until you’re conditioned to believe that solitude is a virtue.