Black Widows – …Stops a Beating Heart

Black Widows
…Stops a Beating Heart

There are voices in music that instantly announce their arrival like a familiar clap of thunder. A certain voice will light you up inside and drive forward toward achieving your means. Memories are hidden within the tone of the voice, all the inflections and range that it carries. In the hardcore/punk scene, there are many distinguishable vocalists, Davey Havok (AFI), Nathan Grey (Boy Sets Fire), and Daryl Tabreski (Snapcase) all have voices that leave deep, unforgetable marks on your senses. Black Widows’ Rob Pennington is a part of that elite group, his vocal work leaving you invigorated and worn out both at once.
Pennington used to front the much-beloved Louisville hardcore band By the Grace of God, but personal politics caused the band to call it quits in 2000 after playing their final show at Krazy Fest 3. Just like BTGOG was considered a “hardcore supergroup” of sorts, featuring members of Endpoint, Split Lip, Elliott, and the Enkindels, the members of Black Widows also carry impressive resumes. Brothers Michael and Evan Patterson used to be in the National Acrobat, whereas mentioned before, Pennington fronted By the Grace of God and also Endpoint. Besides being familiar with Pennington’s BTGOG, I wasn’t sure what the rest of the band would bring to the table. After one listen its safe to say that Black Widows is a progression from Pennington’s past work. This time around, he and his fellow noisemakers crank out a brand of chaotic post-hardcore with old-school sensibilities.
“Name We No One” is the opening track, a song that begins with 20 seconds of quiet but pensive feedback before an explosion of snare drum and winding, wailing guitar launch into the song full force. The guitar sound on this album is spectacular, an intricately furious attack of squelches and effects in tandem with a more old-style, driving hardcore crunch. Most of the lyrics are very poetic and intensely personal, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what Pennington is trying to get at. The urgency in Pennington’s authoritative yell more than quells any doubt about the importance of what he is saying, and more introspection into his words will reveal a broader meaning. “11:59 Answering the Call” is my favorite track on the album, as it best demonstrates everything there is to like about the band: urgency, power, and lyrical strength. The song is fast and chaotic like most of the record but it takes a turn with a slow breakdown where Pennington chants powerful imagery, “Angry children open up your eyes / Raise your fists up to the sky / Let their words fall on deaf ears / And burn their icons to the ground.” This record has seven tracks but clocks in at only 17 minutes, but that isn’t all that surprising considering this is the band’s debut; however, the power and energy of this record will last much longer than its actual length in time.
Once again, a Rob Pennington-fronted band has put out a great album. But it’s not only his vocal delivery and lyrical prowess that make Black Widows something to take notice of; the guitar work of Ryan Patterson and the band’s rhythm section serve to drive every song to a dizzying level intensity. Every little instance of this album is spot-on, not a thing out of place. The only complaint is a minor one about the short length, but Black Widows make more quality music in 17 minutes than most bands can make in 70.