Dragged Into Sunlight – “WIDOWMAKER” Review

Dragged Into Sunlight – “Widowmaker”
Genre: Doom Metal/Experimental Drone

Label: Prosthetic Records

Last year in the metal underground, one band managed to capture the attention of all lovers of the extreme with a re-release of their debut “Hatred For Mankind”, and that band was Dragged Into Sunlight. The obscure bunch from Liverpool refer to each member by single letters (T (vocals), A (guitars), C (bass) and J (drums)), play with their backs to the crowd at gigs and always wear ski masks for promo shoots; and while this might raise a few weary eyebrows over the ‘kvlt’ behaviour, DIS certainly have the musical ‘balls’ to back it.

On “Hatred For Mankind”, the band somehow meshed recognisable traits of sludge, doom metal, black metal, drone and noise into a new beast entirely, almost like Frankenstein’s monster, built of different parts of sub-genres and grew increasingly manic as the album progressed, with feelings of isolation and hatred. Out of this, the band garnered a lot of attention, getting a lot of gleeful promotion from the independent extreme metal magazines: and it deserved it too.

The guitar tones were just so thick and sludgy, even at blistering speeds, while the sound was extended further by the muddy bass at slower paces. The vocals and drumming were just another thing to comprehend altogether: the former just consisting of demonic growls and inhuman highs while the drumming just had some crazy fills and went at face-melting speeds while maintaining an ‘unclean’ sound, sounding tribal in a sense at the aggressiveness of it. These factors combined, along with some well thought out structure, made “Hatred For Mankind” the album of 2011 for many extreme metal fans.

So, how do you follow up to that kind of hype? Well, DIS decided to release a single 40-minute song as a full-length album, recently giving fans the opportunity to listen to the it all in a stream, split into three movements: Part I (Sit), Part II (Soak) and Part III (Absorb) – the titles coming off as instructions and clues to the nature of the songs. As for the execution of a worthwhile follow-up, well, the band might have pulled it off.

Part I is new ground as far as DIS is concerned, a purely instrumental track (if you don’t count the two samples that appear). Being the longest movement, just short of 15-minutes, we get mournful introduction of clean, reverbed guitar as a sample is played, as well as some electronic drone in the background. The mood is grim and dire, and the build up of other guitar tracks and layers of drone happens so eloquently that you don’t notice until the third or fourth listen. There’s also a piano in the track just before the halfway mark adding to the growing weight of the sombre mood with low notes, alternating between loud and soft, going along with the rhythm of the guitar.

The whole feeling culminates when a violin comes in around three-quarters through and becomes something you might expect from a hungover Godspeed You! Black Emperor with a foul-mood; especially with the long bipolar strokes on the violin. You almost forget that you’re even listening to a DIS album, as dark as the sound is, it’s just pulled off really well, luring you into a false sense of calm yet miserable stability.

Part II immediately vacates the ambient nature and snaps into the familiar doom style we expect from the band, starting with struck chords left to ring as the drums roll onwards and the band soon locks into a groove as the tortured screams of T come in bursts. Eventually the band calms down and another sample plays, as the band fashion a dramatic rhythm to go along with it, later going into a mid-pace flow with steady double-bass drums, low growls and grunts and, which might be the weirdest concept to grasp, a catchy chugged riff. It’s not that DIS aren’t capable of writing memorable riffs, but this one in particular sounds like a heavier Goatsnake. Seriously.

Around the halfway mark, there’s also an introduction of synthy keys, which could have gone terribly wrong in the case of DIS’s genuine dark sound… it could have cheesy. That, however, is not the case, yet it doesn’t help the mood in the same way as the piano and violin did in the previous movement, but it just fits into the mix well. Before you can absorb the fact that the band introduced the synth keys, they return to the catchy riff for a short time, before setting up for a quick build-up into another big riff – which is joined by another sample (although unclear, it sounds like the band’s favourite to sample, Charles Manson). We then get an atmospheric outro of echo’d wah-ing guitar as the drums just pound relentlessly, almost grieving to the end of the movement’s existence.

Finally we reach Part III, which is just over 13-minutes, and starts off at an even slower pace. Again, we get T’s nightmarish shrieks and the dirty, muddied sound of the guitar and bass, almost interlocked with each other. But then the pace is slowed down even more, orientating around the drone-doom sound, placing heavy emphasis on distortion and reverberation; which takes up a good portion of this track before T and J jump back in, waking the guitars and bass up.

For the remainder of the movement, we get a section of the ambient doom that played a central role in Part I, until the band burst into different grooves and riffs, featuring discords, ongoing drum rolls and even a post-rockish moment, which is almost over as soon as it starts. Then the track reaches its climax, with a quietened break of yet another sample of someone talking about escaping, killing prison guards and returning to their lifestyle of killing children, before the band enters another familiar DIS approach of riffs, shrieks and drums, eventually fading out into feedback.

So, how does this 40-minute track sum up? Pretty well. It features our favourite ingredients of Dragged Into Sunlight and flavours them with new additional instruments and ideas, making for an interesting experience and avoiding re-treading too familiar ground. While certain elements, in writing, might put off anybody who found themselves obsessively listening to “Hatred For Mankind” on repeat, in practice the band pulls them off fluently – the ambient and post-rock parts feel as natural as can be on an album that is otherwise heavy and grim.

Although, there are times (and mainly during the short riff-orientated sections) where it is a bit easy to zone out and forget what you’ve just heard, even though I mention that DIS don’t “re-tread too familiar ground”, there are just times where the riffs sound a little uninspired or unconvincing – especially after the ridiculously heavy yet catchy riff in Part II, which sticks with you throughout – it’s just that other riffs never really manage the same effect.

Despite that, “Widowmaker” is a promising release from Dragged Into Sunlight and is a worthwhile follow-up to “Hatred Of Mankind”, showing that the band doesn’t have to rely on the same formula or approach to create something brutal, dark and violent. It only begs the question in how the hell can they keep this up – but then people probably said the same after “Hatred For Mankind”.

All that is sure is that DIS are really undeniably giving 90% of their contemporaries in extreme metal a run for their money.

Favourite tracks: Part II, Part I.

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