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Dragged Into Sunlight are 4-piece extreme metal band from the United Kingdom who experiment with many different styles of metal and incorporate them into their music, infamous for wearing balaclavas to hide their identities and playing live with their backs to the audience so they focus on the music and not the personalities behind it.
Their debut EP Terminal Aggressor, released on cassette in 2008, showcased their death metal, black metal, sludge and noise influences culminating in a 20 minute single song of mind blowing chaos. They shortly after released their debut album Hatred For Mankind in 2009 with artwork provided by Justin Bartlett (Lord Mantis, Gorgoroth, Trap Them...) to high critical acclaim for their successful attempt at combining their sludge, death and black metal elements while leaving behind the noise of Terminal Aggressor.
Widowmaker is the sophomore release of Dragged Into Sunlight, coming out in early November 2012. Why you may ask have I decided to review it now? Well because I revisited it yesterday and it completely rekindled my love for this band (not to say I ever fell out of love, more that I got distracted and simply didn't listen to them for a while). Widowmaker comprises of three different sections entitled Part I, Part II and Part III, which when played chronologically result in one 40 minute long song as a further showcase of this bands experimental tendencies.
Widowmaker starts of calm, Part I is the longest "track" on the album clocking in at almost 15 minutes, Part I features no vocals, no drums and no bass. What Part I does comprise of however is eerie acoustic guitars, backed by screeching violin and somber piano, also I believe running throughout the whole piece is a soundbite the band recorded of the sounds of "silence" in the Sedlec Ossuary, a highly visited tourist attraction in the Czech Republic also referred to as the 'Bone Church'. Let me tell you, the first thing I love about this opening is the production/sound of the instruments, instantly recognisable, I have never heard guitars sound this way and the same goes for the violin. The violin only comes in about about half way through along with the creeping piano adding thick textures to the disturbing guitars crawling along, then for the last 30 seconds the guitars change to a more dissonant tone and a frightening sound clip of who I believe is Jeffrey Dahmer which doesn't last long and quickly erupts into Part II.
Part II is the sound of DIS you're expecting, the unorthodox intro to Widowmaker may have caught you off-guard, but this section brings back those disgusting and sludgy memories of their debut album, Hatred For Mankind. The "track" kicks off with a brutal and deafening scream from T (the vocalist, each band member is known only by an initial) as the first riff throws itself forward and decimates the dreaded atmosphere of Part I and its impending doom, this "track" is the coming doom. Everything kicks in here and everything is audible, the crunchy bass thickening the riffs and adding variation, the crisp drums accenting the riffs at times, the vocals highly incomprehensible, as you can imagine, with tortured screams and dry growls rupturing your eardrums and filling your mind with sorrow. Even the violin creeps back into the mix about 5 minutes and 30 seconds in, you could miss it if you're not paying attention. It's hard to believe at times that they are playing with only one guitar and one bass with how full the sound is, achieving what even big budget metal bands cannot with exceptional production techniques. Then halfway past the 7 minute mark everything calms down as the guitar plays a quick interlude followed by a thick bass and soon after by the cymbals being tapped in rhythm. The closing riff to this piece is varied by the band, starting out slow with a very doom-y influence and really ends the section on a desolate and prophetic note, almost foreboding the enclosing dread of Part III which comes in out of nowhere which can really come as a surprise as a first-time listener might not even notice it has started.
From the get-go this "track" is slow, dragging the notes out with inventive drum fills and anguished screams provided by T. The droning guitar and bass is fucking heavy, they made my headphones shake on my head. Then upon the impending 2 minute mark the band decides to head in a direction known as Sunn O)))-worship, the droning guitars slow down even further as feedback leads in to one of the heaviest guitar sounds I have ever head, the fuzz and sludge spilling out of the guitar is ridiculous at this point, how he is even able to pluck the strings is beyond my knowledge as the lucid nightmares brought on by this hypnotic drone performance kick in and you get lost in the repeated riff and whirring ambient noises as the song slowly returns to pre-drone with the drone riff played faster along with the drums and T's brilliant vocals once more. At the 6 minute mark everything shuts down into a tranquil guitar interlude that really is the calm before the storm, a faint whirring can be heard echoing the main riff as the second and third guitars come in adding thick layers to this somber section as it all comes crashing down into my favourite riff of the album. This riff blows my mind every time I hear it, maybe it's the build-up of the calm section beforehand or the fact that it's just such a great riff, but it always gets me and sends me insane, in a good way of course. This riff is thunderous, T's vocals over the top are almost...catchy. Not really, but the closest that could qualify as such on the album, but then it leads into another top moment of the album for me, overly audible bass leads into an odd, yet fitting drum solo. I am by no means a drum expert, I hardly know anything about then, but what I do know is the sound of the snare here is brilliant, I love it, it fits so well with the fresh sound of every other instrument on this album and really makes me appreciate this little solo even more. But this does not last, before you know it you are once again thrown back into the fray into the explosive and satisfying finale as distortion and feedback close this stunning piece of audible art.
So to end with, this album is near perfection to me. It displays the progression and experimentation this band are willing to put forward in their music, with original sounds, song composition and production techniques. Overall I rate this album a very strong 95, the only thing that stops it being a perfect 100 is the short length of this album, only 40 minutes after a 3 year wait from their debut, but hopefully they'll remedy this with their third offering. Listen as one song, and enjoy yourself.
"Hatred For Mankind" sounds like beating someone to death with a crowbar; "Widowmaker" sounds like the cruel realization that such atrocities will never be outgrown. Dragged Into Sunlight earned a well-deserved following some years after their ravenous, bloodthirsty full-length debut album entitled "Hatred For Mankind" preached its devilish poison to an evaporating extreme metal crowd that longed for more than just blast beats and guttural vocals. The blackened death/doom metal texture found throughout Dragged Into Sunlight's breakout left many gnawing their fingers in anticipation for what would come next. Now, the most important thing to understand about "Widowmaker" is that it isn't a continuation of "Hatred For Mankind." "Widowmaker" is something entirely different. Granted, this is undeniably Dragged Into Sunlight, but a redefined Dragged Into Sunlight; a Dragged Into Sunlight with a new agenda.
"Hatred For Mankind" is all about unrelenting rage and hatred, boiling up from eruptive musicianship and unmatched intensity; not so much here. When "Widowmaker" opens the first of its three doors, a little surprise awaits: "Part I" is merely a nimbus of eerie guitar chords singing a song of impending doom and despair, crawling through repetitive clusters of atmosphere and summoning occasional spurts of diaphanous violins, piano sections, and audio samples about killing and humanity's dark nature. It runs for nearly fifteen minutes; no heavy riffs or expected insanity. "Part II" and "Part III" tear down the thin film covering the introduction and reveal a Dragged Into Sunlight that appears somewhat transmuted from its previous incarnation: the band grinds through a variety of butchering, mega-heavy riffs with the faceless throat of their guttural vocalist leading the charge. These final cuts—the first running up to almost twelve minutes and the other thirteen—largely remain mid-paced and gloomy, seldom exploding into pure cannibalistic brutality, but boldly venture into uncharted territory.
These components together create a listening experience that at first made me stop and ask, "That's it?" Where's the paralyzing antipathy and revulsion? Where's the straight-forward bludgeoning? The blast beats? The non-stop violence? These aspects are largely suppressed throughout "Widowmaker," and although adapting this alteration was a bit difficult, it turned out to be an impressive transaction. "Widowmaker" sounds not like an experiment, but an evolution; a natural progression not forced by outside factors. "Part II" and "Part III" both have themes that are carefully calculated and magnificently crafted, preaching a multitude of malevolent riffs and shattering instrumentation. That huge introduction? It's the best part of the record! Creepy, miserable, disturbing and harrowing only begin to describe its might.
Yes, "Widowmaker" is a very strange and prodigious album, and yes, only a chosen few will truly understand its words, but "Widowmaker" goes beyond "Hatred for Mankind" and pushes Dragged Into Sunlight's abysmal vision into realms past utter misery. This isn't a grand bamboozling of the ages; this is an excellent group challenging the creative elements of extreme metal and demanding an elaboration of its existence, making it justify its very essence. "Widowmaker" needs not your approval and couldn't care less if you like it or not; it's an album that runs on its own terms and laws. Dragged Into Sunlight is an uprising within the DNA of extreme metal; let your ears witness the evolution.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
This review was inspired by the mediocre reviews this album has seen so far. I was quite surprised when I couldn't find a positive one. I felt another view point had to be added here to give it a fair chance. Yes, this album is a bit of a contrast to their previous effort, Hatred for Mankind, but that in no way diminishes the achievement that this album truly is. The other reviews I've read sound like they just wanted Hatred for Mankind part 2 (not that I can blame them), but I feel like Widowmaker is nearly the ideal progression from their previous release. Where Hatred seemed to embody the purest form of hatred and rage, Widowmaker devolves into hate induced misery and depression. The results are a very strange kind of beautiful.
Part I begins with a rather somber sounding, slow "clean" guitar. After a few repeated melancholic chords, the riff carries into a slow picking bleak sort of melody. With a characteristically depressing sample (of many to come), a second guitar is added to the mix, harmonizing in places. This track is a very doomy affair, and wouldn't sound too out of place on an Asunder album. There is a mournful beauty to this intro with the same organic and raw recording quality fans of Dragged into Sunlight would recognize immediately. Atmospheric sounds of nature and an eerie piano enters the mix close to halfway through the track before slowing back down to a single guitar. Here is where I can sort of understand the complaints against the intro. I personally love this sort of thing, and feel this instrumental was pulled off flawlessly, but it does drag on for nearly 15 minutes. I found no issues with this though, and felt the length was completely appropriate for the feelings they are attempting to evoke here.
Towards the last half of this track your ears are treated to a prayer bell and a very solemn violin melody. In my opinion, this inclusion perfectly rounds out the intro. After repeated listens, I still can't get enough of it. By the end of the track it becomes hard to not begin to share the composers bleak outlook, at least in the moment. The final sample of part I certainly helps that. Lying in the dark with a decent pair of headphones is an excellent way to experience this track, and the anger that is to come.
Part II begins with the raw, grinding guitar work you would expect from Dragged into Sunlight. The solemn beauty that was the intro is replaced by classic DIS tortured shrieks and grating feedback from the guitars. Drum work here is par for the course -- for me, nothing seems to standout in this section, but follows the song so perfectly it becomes easy to let it all melt together into one collective whole. This is something not many bands can pull off. After another sample (there's a trend here), the song breaks into a transition and then down to what must be the heaviest riff DIS has subjected us to so far. Much of the guitar work here is churned out at a pace that would seem comparatively slow to someone just coming from Hatred for Mankind, but is at that perfect pace to nod your head to. Coming up on the halfway mark that grave sounding violin makes its return, pairing with the chord progressions from the guitars to create that grim beauty that the dead could only long for. A few more samples and a break in the broiling chaos round out the end of this track, winding out with some very somber chord progressions (regressions?) and a bit of atmosphere on top. More repeating riffs so far than would be expected coming from Hatred for Mankind.
Part III starts out the way you might expect Part II to progress, but decays into sludgy, gloomy darkness, winding down to solitary instruments at parts. Notably, a bass "solo" which grinds along with plenty of fuzz and a palatable grime to it. Part III takes you further down into the crushingly depressive pit that this piece must have been created in. After a few well placed instrumental breaks and another sample, the song breaks into a faster pace, nearly upbeat (if this album is capable of that) section of guitar and drums before winding out with more of that deliciously grating Matamp guitar feedback. One complaint I have here is how abruptly the album ends. After the twisted journey you as the listener were just subjected to, it felt like there was something missing -- closure to the painful tracks that just sliced into you -- but we are sadly left hanging.
This album was intended to be listened to as a whole, and I agree without a doubt that this is the best way to experience it -- in fact, I don't even like to start the album unless I have the time to listen to it from start to finish. Otherwise it feels like starting a song at the halfway point; incomplete. This is another aspect that I can understand might turn some people off to the album. This is not a casual listen.
Where Hatred for Mankind seemed to leave you with a mouth full of ash and an implacable sort of rage, Widowmaker evokes more feelings of bitter sadness. This is where most complaints for the album seem to come from, but for me, it seemed like the most natural progression for the band to go. There are definitely more doom and sludge influences here that we have only caught a glimpse of in the past, but I feel like this really rounds out the feelings they are trying to evoke from you as the listener. Their first release encompassed the kind of burning and vindictive hatred that seemingly only a truly insane person can harbor, while Widowmaker seems to uncover the soul crushing depression that follows that rage.
At nearly 40 minutes, this album felt much too short to me. After the first listen, I sat there for a second questioning if it really could have ended there after being so engrossed in the grotesque picture that had been painted for me. I know just about every other review out there seems to state the opposite, that it felt longer than it was, but I can't help but disagree. I feel like this album needed to be heard with a different mindset than just expecting another Hatred for Mankind -- which is what people seemed to be looking for rather than a progression from that album. It's unfortunate that it is viewed that way, and not for what I truly believe it to be -- the next step in a deranged and hateful person's mindset; soul crushing depression as a result of unwavering hatred.
Dragged Into Sunlight’s Widowmaker is an experiment in patience. A work that needs to be fully experienced. When taken in segments it’s parts are not the sum of the whole, a mild poison at best, that causes an irritating disturbance, a mild rash, blurred vision and a fever. But if the listener takes the 39 minutes to absorb the full aural blast of Parts I,II and III, the results are absolutely devastating. Body convulsions and most likely mortality.
The album starts slowly with the utterly depressive Part I, an intro so to speak, but if given a full examination, a song that while not necessarily very metal makes for a chilling listen. The song is basically a few repeated chords, starting very slowly, but adding more and more detail, a few well placed wood strings, piano keys and an eerie vocal sample describing the quenching of a human life. It starts building tremendous power at the half way point climaxing right before the beginning of Part II. The best way of experiencing Part I is on cold autumn or winter day. As the weak winter sun slowly dies on the pale purple horizon of a cold dusk and then finally slips into night, so does the feeling of life around you. The casual listener may dismiss this and even be frustrated at the slow build up, but once realized what sheer beauty and absolute misery this creates, one’s feeling towards Widowmaker grow. The only thing that takes away from Part I is the final sample. Had they simply stayed with the one early sample, this track would be a beautiful masterpiece.
Part II is sheer auditory destruction when compared to the brooding Part I. Heavy chords and vocals that remind of Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick start the song. They slice through the soul like sharp daggers. Another sample awaits; one more tale of psychotic murder and misanthropic self absorption. The sample fades and we are treated to the heaviest portion of the album so far. The vocals shift from a proto Godflesh like sound to one akin to Frank Mullen or other brutal death metal greats. Then from out of nowhere they take on an early Napalm Death Lee Dorian feel. This band is definitely a combination of genres, death/black/doom/grind are all present, and this characteristic gives this UK based 4 piece a true chameleon nature. The remainder of the song absolutely destroys everything in its path, like a slow but crushing coastal wake crashing upon the unsuspecting shore being pushed by a giant sea beast, further and further into the listeners psyche as the landscape begins falling off into a darkened abyss. Again more samples, this time the rather annoying “Hippie cult leader” sample. The last 2 minutes after this sample the song pushes deeper into the far reaching landscape until nothing behind or in front of it is left. Vast churning waters, covering the lifeless weak below.
Part III is a similar continuation of Part II. While not as powerful in its early stages, it starts very slow with a ton of reverberated guitar, then it almost stops at the 2:44 minute mark with distorted bass over yet another sample. This sample fits the concept rather well and makes up for the last sample from Part II. At this point one has to wonder why Part II and III were even separated by the band, as they share too much of the same genetic makeup, and are so far removed from Part I, that taken as a concept two parts would have made the most logic here. Part III picks up speed again and then comes to an almost complete stop again at about the 6:02 minute mark. A semi clean riff leads the listener for a good 2 minutes and then breaks into clean riffing over nice drum fills and china crashes. Just enough time for the listener to try to catch their breath during the calm that accompanies the eye of the storm, but the tempest roars back to life and the killer wave that was adjacent to the calm eye immediately breaks over you and pulls you back under. Then it mercilessly spreads your lifeless corpse across the devastated landscape as the most disturbing sample of the trilogy fills your fading soul.
This is Widowmaker in a nutshell. Earlier I mentioned that Widowmaker, when not taken as a whole, can be an irritating experience. It most definitely is, and long time fans sure must feel cheated by this output. But there is also redeeming value here if taken compounded.Of course about 50% of the sample clips are very grating, especially the ones mentioned at the end of Part I and the late sample in Part II. The album ends too suddenly, the metal songs don't necessarily ever reach that climax one expects so eagerly either.
While by no means perfect DIS have definitely created an interesting, but polarizing work here, which is definitely genre crossing, and not for the faint of heart or the easily distracted. One sees bits of industrial, grindcore, black metal and death metal all swirling together in one giant vortex and if one of these are your fancy, it is well worth the price of admission.
Although there was good reason why Dragged into Sunlight never received much (if any) mainstream attention for their debut, “Hatred for Mankind” was a shaker for the underground. Although negativity and pessimism is nothing new for extreme metal, this pack of Englishmen’s sincerity to the mood and atmosphere was undeniable. Arguably doing with dark atmosphere what Motorhead did with volume, Dragged into Sunlight’s first album was something of an underground gem, and even a couple of years since first hearing it, it’s still as vicious as it ever was. Although there’s no doubt that many listeners will find it disappointing that the band have distanced themselves from their original black metal sound with “WidowMaker”, I should start by saying there wasn’t much these guys could have done to expand upon “Hatred for Mankind”. With ‘misanthropic demon-birth black metal’ fully actualized in one fell swoop, Dragged into Sunlight have found a new realm of sound to fuel their sonic assault. “WidowMaker” is a much more meditative offering than what the band’s done before, but the noxious atmosphere is cut from the same cloth. The end result is something that doesn’t quite match the visceral intensity of the debut, but allows for a fresh experience of its own.
There’s no doubt that Dragged into Sunlight intended to reinvent themselves here with “WidowMaker”. Although split into three parts (presumably for the sake of navigation), it’s a single album-length composition. The band has never been a stranger to longer song structures, but there is the sense of further liberation from time constraints and ‘concise’ songwriting. This more longwinded doctrine is applied most explicitly on the album’s first part, which acts essentially as an introduction for the rest of the music. Relying on a few minimalistic guitar motifs, ambient recordings and a gradual violin, the opening to “WidowMaker” is about as musically distant from the sonic chaos of “Hatred for Mankind” as could be imagined. The deliberately paced ambiance and creeping composition of Godspeed You! Black Emperor may be a suitable way to describe the sound here. It’s both an eerie way to introduce an album and a major middle finger to any fan looking for a more familiar black metal palette. At fifteen minutes however, there’s no doubt that the introduction ambles on for far too long, and repeated listens only exacerbate the fact. Although there were good intentions here, the concept of the apocalyptic, mellow intro is dragged far past the point it should have been taken.
Although the first portion of “WidowMaker” is an ambivalent success, the near-two thirds that remain enjoy a more familiar sense of aggression and rawness that first put Dragged into Sunlight on the map. It’s no surprise however that the metal aspect has been largely altered as well. Instead of a bestial black/death combination, “WidowMaker”s heavy element appears more comfortable in the waters of doom, sludge, and even post-metal. I’ll admit that Cult of Luna and even Isis came to mind here, and given the context of the debut, this comes off as quite a musical surprise. The riffs and musical ideas are more drawn out here, and less outright aggressive than they have been in the past. A stalwart exception in this case are the primal howls and grunts of the vocalist known as T, who sounds just as sincerely disturbed as he did on “Hatred for Mankind”. There are no blistering guitar solos or unexpected changes of pace in the album’s second half, but the music gains a solid sense of momentum. Moreover, the production sounds organic and suitably chaotic, in spite of the minimalistic composition. The occasional flourish of violin and serial killer samples bring the atmosphere of “WidowMaker” full circle. Dragged into Sunlight do not lose hold of the sludgy intensity once they have found it, although given the overdrawn lengths they went to introducing the album, it’s nevertheless a disappointment that “WidowMaker” lacks a fitting finale or memorable close.
Some things about Dragged into Sunlight’s sophomore are incredibly promising, and there remains a powerful sense of sincerity and atmosphere on “WidowMaker” that shouldn’t be underestimated, in spite of the style change. It took some balls on account of the band eschewing a style they had been received so well with, and going for something new. I can appreciate that fully, but the more drawn out, post metal sound of “WidowMaker” does not grab me nearly as much, nor does it create much of an impression after the record has ended. Although it’s not even forty minutes long, “WidowMaker” feels longer and more drawn out than it rightly should have been. Dragged into Sunlight made an ambitious leap here, but it’s turned out to be something of a mixed success. Repeated listens don’t make the album much more satisfying than it is on the first count, but there’s no doubt that Dragged into Sunlight remain as much a mystery as they ever have. Knowing now that they so eager to explore new territory, it will be very interesting to see where they go next, in spite of “WidowMaker”s ambivalent success.
I don't think there was a single person that wasn't completely devastated upon first listen to Hatred for Mankind, a shocking and ballsy record that has few comparisons in their ambiguous genre. Some people cried that Dragged Into Sunlight would be the trailblazers of a new direction of extreme metal, and their live performances only reinforced this claim. DIS was in a position to deliver albums of such striking negativity and savagery that the entire scene would be forced to take notice. It was not meant to be, however, as WidowMaker fails thoroughly to live up to its predecessor. Now who am I to begrudge a band for changing their sound? The negativity in this review is not in relation to the musical differences between the two albums, but rather on the profound lack of enjoyment found in this release.
Despite the track list, there's only actually two parts to WidowMaker. There's "the clean part" and "the heavy part", and the problems start with the former. "Part I" is literally a 15 minute intro, with the only variance being the addition of a violin roughly half way through its duration, but isn't interesting enough to wait through the ~8 minutes of a repeating figure in the bass. This is one of the easiest songs to skip in the world, or even just an abridged version, there's no shift in the atmosphere after the start, listening to the first minute would more than adequate to prepare for the heavy part of the album.
Which brings us to "the heavy part". Which at first impact does a decent job of forgiving the ridiculous intro. The serial-killer sample is present with a bombastic doomy riff. It's definitely a riff you find yourself nodding your head to, and then we settle into a World Eater paced chug, which keeps the nodding going. All in all "Part II" is the best part of the album and something worth listening to, it's evokes a bit of the malevolence that endeared so many to the debut. It's important to note that that is one of the two time that this sound is heard, there's no chaotic release to be found here. This is where the boredom sets in though. A monotonous guitar chug cycles endlessly, and the guitar tone isn't powerful enough to really a real impact. That's my biggest issue with the album, the pace never changes. I'm sure it could be argued that there's an artistic reason for it, but once you become aware of it it's maddening. And whenever the tempo is briefly deviated from, you've already forgotten all the riffs from the rest of the album. The overlong closing of the album has a bit more enthusiasm than the intro, but the reverbed arpeggios are easy to be distracted from, a riff they could have just put in "Part II" closes out the album on something of a positive note.
WidowMaker is not a bad album, but at ten minutes shorter than Hatred For Mankind still manages to feel long, and while you'll enjoy the ride you won't remember a bit of it.