Over the past 40 years metal has stretched every possible “extreme” musical idea to the most illogical of conclusions. It has reached the point where impenetrable genres such as grindcore, death metal and black metal—all of which have prospered on being uncompromising and inaccessible in nature—have become popular, and in turn have lost the shock and horror of their youth. Hell, even the coruscating noise of artists like Merzbow and Whitehouse (who have been adopted by the metal community because of their musical extremity) and the laborious drone of Sunn o))) are now enjoyed by the more conservative metal listener; a possible result of our increasing exposure to the most avant-garde and extreme of acts discovered through different digital avenues.
Because of this desensitization, in the year 2012 there is little left to instil fear in the heart of the listener, and it takes something special to do so: Nihill’s Verkdonkermaan more than rattled a few knees earlier this year and Atriarch’s recent masterpiece Ritual Of Passing will shake the weak to their very core. That is why when another record comes along and petrifies you to the point where you begin to feel the blood drain from your face and the marrow of your bones begin to tighten, you take notice, breathe deep its vile essence, and embark upon its journey most morbid.
And what a journey Dragged Into Sunlight’s Widowmaker is. Like the band’s debut, Hatred For Mankind, Widowmaker feasts upon the foul carcass of the blackest sludge, the nastiest black metal and the most disturbing death metal. But unlike the debut, Widowmaker salivates over aspects of hardcore (similar to bands like Integrity and AMENRA) and intently focuses its beady eyes on doom. With Widowmaker the band have blended these extreme genres together and has constructed a record that is almost cinematic in style; bringing Dragged Into Sunlight’s sound from the murkiest basement to the murder room front and centre.
Broken into three distinct sections and labelled in a rudimentary fashion as Part I-III, Widowmaker dispenses with the frivolity of song titles and leans on the nightmarish artwork (courtesy of the maniacal mind of Justin Bartlett) and the music itself to fracture brittle psyches. To experience the perverse world created by this UK based sect of sickness, whose reclusive band members—in an act of unity and the total suppression of individuality—are named only by single letters: C (bass), J (drums), A (guitars) and T (vocals), and shield their faces with balaclavas, it is imperative that Widowmaker‘s forty minute running time is engaged by the listener in its entirety.
Part I is a scene-setting instrumental piece that thrives upon the tension and the terror between the notes. It unwinds slowly; haunting the listener over the space of fifteen minutes. And even though there is no punishing rhythms or hellacious screams to be heard, the twang of its “Wild West by way of Olde England” atmospherics and the constant sense of dread contained within the instrumentation—heightened by the distressing use of strings, particularly the slicing violins that begin to appear amongst the reverb soaked guitars—makes Part I the most reserved, consuming, and melodic song that Dragged Into Sunlight has ever written. The maturity contained within this composition is light years ahead of the hell-fire abominations vomited out on the sadistic, Hatred For Mankind, and its placement here is essential to Widowmaker’s purposeful course. Some may balk at its seemingly excessive length and find it a patience tester, but Dragged Into Sunlight’s music is not about instant gratification and you get the impression that Part I is supposed to test patience in order to weed out the weak.
After the creepy incline of Part I, Part II’s thunder clouds rain down the bile and bitterness that Dragged Into Sunlight has been known for. A tumultuous emission of frightening spoken word samples (including words from the brutal serial killer, Richard Ramirez), pitched shrieks and innards rupturing growls on top of blackened hardcore/death metal, all of which has been perverted into deformity. It is cold, remorseless and contains enough twists and turns to satisfy the insatiable appetites of even the most jaded metal fan. And like the best post-metal, the latter half of Part II continues to grow in stature: its eviscerating cycle of riffs returning with more intensity with each repetition, resulting in a truly incredible end to the middle section of Widowmaker.
Part III follows the aftermath of Part II and its beginning attempts to drain the lifeblood straight from your body through throttling guitar chords that ring out indefinitely and spoken word samples that swirl throughout the enervating doom. However, the third part of Widowmaker is not content to just fester within the same funeral doom pace of band’s like Monarch/Wreck of the Hesperus, and Dragged Into Sunlight shift into a lumbering sludge section; its riffs cut to the bone and bleed just as heavily. The rest of Part III continues to evolve in the same way, as elements of Part I and Part II are incorporated for dramatic effect. The breathless instrumentation of Part I is revisited here during the midpoint minimalism of the lone guitar lines which tighten the tension again, before being offset by the gargantuan riffs and double bass blasts (comparable to Part II) which bring Widowmaker to a gripping close.
Like every great band that operates within this multi-limbed beast known as metal, Dragged Into Sunlight understand that there must be silence in order to feed destruction. Light and darkness as metaphors for dynamics in music have been explored by musicians since the day one, and now that Dragged Into Sunlight have applied this technique to the tormented art of Widowmaker, this creative group of misanthropes have emerged a devastating proposition.