Monday, March 16, 2009

Young Widows. Old Wounds (Temporary Residence, 2008)

"I fell in a hole/ A deep, deep hole/ At the bottom I found god."

Are you a fan of ill-tempered, angrily precise, and excessively accomplished noise in the vein of Drive Like Jehu, Slint, Big Black, the Melvins, and similar purveyors of rocking bad vibes? If so, then Young Widows is right up your alley, a trio dedicated to blowing speakers and raising hairs, delivering sonic sucker punches left and right, leaving the listener a bruised and happy heap on the canvas. These boys are heavyweights.

Blasting out of Louisville, KY's fabled scene in 2006 with their pummeling Jade Tree debut Settle Down City, Young Widows (Evan Patterson on guitars/vocals, Nick Theineman on bass/vocals, and Jeremy McMonigle on drums) were born from the ashes of post-hardcore outfit Breather Resist. Though Settle Down City is an impressive collection of abrasive angularity, it ultimately lacks the focus of sophomore triumph Old Wounds.

In their first incarnation (with Breather Resist drummer Geoff Patton), the trio was feeling their oats and settling into their sound. By Old Wounds, they've settled in nicely, with a clear idea of what kind of mayhem they want to stir up and a defined plan of attack.

The mission: unsettling. The approach: brute rhythmic force and an arsenal of repetitive, trance-inducing riffs played at top volume. On Old Wounds, Young Widows produce wave after wave of wall after wall of sound, conjuring up noisy maelstroms of sonic doom and gloom shot through with a galvanizing energy and concussive swing.

Throughout the LP, Theineman and McMonigle stay locked in and bent on pulverization, with the bass thickly distorted to hold down rhythm guitar duties while Patterson explores new modes of jagged, slanted melodicism on lead guitar. Time signatures and tempos are switched up and shuffled mercilessly, adding to the disorientation and overall sense of unrest. But underlying it all is an innate and pervasive tunefulness, darkly catchy and vastly entertaining, bolstered by the desperate vocals pitched somewhere between a growl and a shriek.

From the savage plod of opener "Took A Turn," the blitzkrieg cadence and bed-spin guitar motifs of "Old Skin," and threatening stuttersteps of "Lucky And Hardheaded," Young Widows concentrate mightily on taking your effing head off, operating without pause and without remorse. When they slow things down, as on skulking nightmare "The Guitar" and the paranoiac "The Heat Is Here," they give off a distinct Melvins-esque aroma, redolent of cheap weed and bad trips. These guys can do the negative creep with the worst of them.

Young Widows are a force to be reckoned with, unabashed fans of early '90s mathematical thrash and post-hardcore belligerence. On Old Wounds, they do themselves proud, crafting a joyously caustic body of songs, their enthusiasm and skill bleeding through in every speaker-shredding note.

Young Widows: Old Wounds