Widow - Nightlife Review
by Mark Hensch
Formed as recently as 2000, Raleigh, North Carolina's Widow is not the kind of band one would normally expect to hear in this day and age. Widow is arguably the most old-school act I've heard in 2007; their streamlined sound owes equal portions of payment to both the galloping days of NWOBHM and arena hard rock from America's 1980s. If that sounds like an anomaly, perhaps a more detailed dissection will suffice. Nightlife is driven by a Motley Crue mentality of lusty swagger, all while attacking with the barnstorming power of hard rock period KISS, the fantastic shred of Van Halen, the ferocious melodies of Iron Maiden, and the overall hard-rock aesthetic of early Dokken. As if that weren't enough, the band has added several modern touches to set themselves apart from their forerunners, and for the most part it works. Thought 3/4 of the vocals are in the early metal era's air-raid wail style, the remaining quarter is comprised of a snarling yowl befitting Three Inches of Blood. Topped with a delicate balance between extreme catchiness and extreme heaviness (a dictum best possessed by Shadows Fall, who obviously share some of the Dokken love), Widow is the kind of band retrogressive rock movements are formed off of.
The decent if unremarkable "First Born" strangely enough doesn't really show this, as it is one of Nightlife's more bland tracks. It just feels much more laidback in comparison to the rest of the album, which is saying something, as even this song kicks ass. A hard-rocking lead shimmies in with some early Maiden riffs, leading into an old-fashioned anthem to the havoc caused by the Antichrist. The rabid "We Will Meet Again" is a proto-thrash number laced with memorable hooks and furious, punked-out drums. The soaring choruses contrast nicely with the howled, poignant verses, and this will be stuck in one's head for days at a time. "Beware the Night" sounds like a more metallic KISS penning anthems to criminal intent on a dark evening; the guitars are full, confident, and raw, perfectly backing the gang vocals shrieking the title with aplomb. "Teacher's Pet," meanwhile, is a totally over-the-top lust anthem that would have done Van Halen proud. Kicking off with perfectly relentless riffing and patient, churning drums, the band utilizes their strengths (i.e. sensible chord arrangements, confident vocals, and fantastic melodies) to overcome the cheese factor and churn out a classic guilty pleasure song.
Things get even better from here on out. Up first is the majestic "Cult of Life." "Cult" is the closest the band comes to an outright power ballad, but in reality, the song is so much more than that. A glittering, brilliant melody snakes through the night as soft crooning and delicate, clean chords drift slowly. Just as the more extremist parts of a listener's musical sensibilities starts getting offended, "Cult of Life" explodes into a fist-pumping jam that is straight balls-to-the-wall rock. In a great twist, it ends with a totally-clean rendition of that immortal, initial melody, bringing things perfectly full-circle. The percussive intro of "I'll Make You a Star" soon leads to squealing harmonics and throat-shredding chants. Gripping, sing-along worthy, and melodic, this is every part "The Trooper" as it is "Kickstart my Heart." The bass line of "At the End" slowly builds into fiery leads and muscular riffs flexed solely for L.A. Strip scene points. A fragile clean portion effortlessly pops in, only to be swallowed whole by more shredding guitar licks and bombastic, face-planting fretwork.
The exquisite "Beauty Queen" is the cut I would personally highlight if I was Widow; an exceedingly epic lead swirls out into a vortex of classic metal riffs and subtle Megadeth influences. All of it comes together to showcase a band utterly immersed in rocking out in the materialism of modern life, only to be ultimately dissatisfied by it overall. This unique take is something that few of the excessive glam rock bands from the 1980's ever touched on, and definitely gives Widow a maturity that their idols lacked so early on in their careers. The thrashing that is "Nightlife" is definitely the band's denim-and-leather moment, a blue-collar asskicking that could only be delivered by an act wholly in-tune with their roots and equally willing to experiment upon them. I can definitely see why the album is named after this one folks---I feel like NWOBHM came out of the past with a unforeseen right hook and started a brutal brawl with 1980's hard rock and this song is the sweaty, deranged result. I'm calling this one bloody perfect stuff.
In an even more intriguing twist, Nightlife is rounded out by two back-to-back covers. Neither needs an introduction, as both are amongst the best rock anthems ever penned by mortal hands. The first, Van Halen's "Ain't Taking Bout Love," is decent but falls a bit flat. The band has definitely nailed the tone, and is more than capable of matching with the original's technicality...it is just the band tries a bit hard to add their own stamp and I can't force myself to admit it works. The band adds their aggressive, throaty howls ala Three Inches of Blood to this, and to be honest, it sounds a bit much. Thankfully, the cover of KISS' "I Stole Your Love" is absolutely fantastic, a roaring monster that perfectly captures the energy and drama that KISS first embodied when in their prime. Older listeners will undoubtedly adore it, and as for noobs like myself, they'll find themselves wondering if maybe they missed out on not being around for the good old glory days of yore. Thank God then that in this day and age bands like Widow are still willing to fly the flag for the ballsy, traditional stuff; Nightlife is a swift kick straight out of the past, and desperately needed. Ending on that note, I highly recommend you track this down if you can find it, as this might be the sleeper hit of 2007 in the metal world.
1. First Born
2. We Will Meet Again
3. Beware the Night
4. Teacher's Pet
5. Cult of Life
6. I'll Make You a Star
7. At the End
8. Beauty Queen
10. Ain't Talking Bout Love (Van Halen Cover)
11. I Stole Your Love (KISS Cover)
CD Info and Links
Widow - Nightlife
Preview and Purchase This CD Online
Visit the official homepage
More articles for this artist
tell a friend about this review
The Pit Your turn to get in the pit with your thoughts about this review and CD