As low-fi, atmospheric black metal goes, there’s a glut on the market. It takes a lot to stand out. Thankfully Dhumavati, The Widow’s debut 30 minute voyage into nihilistic grandeur, hits all the right points, bringing a well realized concept, fierce emotion, and great composition into a single, very bleak whole.
This is treble-all-the-way black metal, and not a note of bass will be heard (which personally I dislike, but I am a bass player and will happily own up to my personal prejudices). The guitar work is winding, dissonant, and utilizes intertwined melodies and riffs to fantastic effect. As such the release has enough intricacy to reward many listens, despite its primitive surface impression.
The drumming is all programmed all the time. At first I was a little hesitant about the mechanical kick and cymbals, but repeated listened opened my mind to the view that the blatantly computer-derived percussion is actually very appropriate for the music. It lends a deadened inexorability to the proceedings, conjuring the worst kinds of depressive states.
As a unit, the guitars and drums interlace perfectly, whether voyaging into more frantic material or more groove/mid-pace passages. If the programmed drums detract from the guitars’ savagery somewhat, they certainly lend them a psychopathic intent in exchange. And fortunately, when things slow down, the feel of the riffs resonates strongly. The Widow demonstrate a fantastic instinct for arrangement.
Which leads us to the vocals of this enigmatic one-man band. Tormented and unhinged are two adjectives that come to mind. Heavily distorted, but still letting fragments of comprehensible lyrics through, the vocals are genuinely unsettling. There’s something very raw or unstable about them; the vulnerability of the pain and anger on display here is sometimes literally hair-raising.
Lyrically, the release explores an apocalyptic vision by way of personal dissolution, a kind of malevolent Buddhist/Hindu invocation of the all-destroying Mother. There is stark irony in the juxtaposition of spiritual liberation with the destruction of god and humanity alike. The muddying of the inner psyche and the worldly is masterful and disturbing; we are forced before the evanescent but eternal abyss.
As the release progresses it reaches out beyond the more conventional black metal form into some more industrial and outright harsh noise passages: repetitive, abrasive, and searing aural woundings. Track three, “Trembling” draws in some understated percussion and sets it against hazes of static and tantalizing, haunting whispers: a sense of arrogance, humility, hatred, and apathy flows freely.
As a slowly, repetitive, dirge-like direction takes over in the final track, the repeated lyric “it doesn’t matter” is deployed with great effect. Again irony seems to be at play here: the statement that “it doesn’t matter” is like a pearl wedged into the flesh of such clear and violent feeling. The fact of its seemingly obvious lie exposes the creative fault-lines that animate the whole of the release.
Dhumavati is a wonderful first release from an artist who, in various guises, displays much promise. It employs a consciously minimal sound palette to tremendous effect, and provokes complex and disturbing emotions.
Releasing it on cassette (but with digital download information included) was a masterstroke too; the analogue compression brings an especially thick and unforgiving atmosphere to the proceedings. This release is highly recommended for anyone with a penchant for creative, demanding, and genuinely unsettling black metal.
04) Ageless Night