Stafford's Those Snakes, Widowmaker - album review

The second record from Stafford metalheads Those Snakes is here, and it's a breathtaking accomplishment for the four-piece.

The album artwork for Widowmaker by Stafford's Those Snakes
The album artwork for Widowmaker by Stafford's Those Snakes

Last week's featured act in The Star Unsigned, guitarist and vocalist Karl Slater spoke candidly and at length about the personal and collective struggles of the band in even getting them all inside the studio with iconic producer Russ Russell (Machine Head, At the Gates, Napalm Death, Raging Speedhorn, Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth) at his Parlour Recording Studio.

What we have is nine vast and expansive songs - some purely instrumental, some full of almost operatic harmonies, some gruff as hell. But all of them, every single one, is packed with riffs to twist the spinal cord and tie it up in knots.

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For those with a deep, dark musical persuasion, head straight for Death To Those Who Seek It. Thundering percussion from the off courtesy of Tom Wilson tell you what is lying ahead, and the almost Red Fang-esque scratchy vocals from Slater and long-time friend Sandy Stanton are delicious in their depravity. It's loud and proud, a real fist thump in the gut and a joy because of it.

Serpent Godess is equally frantic and caustic. Its abrasive wall of sound pushing against you from the off quickly becomes your friend and embraces you from all angles. That big melody three-quarters through that ushers in the final aural assault is masterful.

Astral Plane is one of the fine instrumental numbers on the record. When they play in this vein there is a lot of And So i Watch You From Afar... in their sound. It's a sweeping and melancholic number, like a sweeping visual watching a vast field altering from summer into autumn. It's beautiful and shows their tightness as a band that brings on their sound in leaps and bounds from their 2017 debut release Holy Mountain.

Stafford's Those Snakes performing Photo: JODIPHOTOGRAPHY

Also purely instrumental but more energetic and frantic is Large Magellanic Cloud. It builds like a volcano to eruption point and, again, Wilson provides the dynamite which is ably lit by Stanton's deep bass as Slater's guitar frolics over the top.

And when they go softer lyrically too it works. Catharsis is more melodic than a lot of others here and its uplifting chorus is another delight slotted in effortlessly.

There's so much more we would want to mention given the space, but look upon this as a chance to be surprised by the other delights hidden inside.

Rating: 9/10

Widowmaker is available for direct download from Those Snakes's website along with a limited edition digisleeve CD with exclusive artwork and a very limited live album to buy. Fans can also hear it on their Spotify page, and it is available through the usual digital outlets too. They launch the album tomorrow, February 29, at Redrum in their hometown, with support from Prognosis and King Corpse. Tickets are available from PartyBeep for £5 or £7 on the door. For more on Those Snakes, follow them on Twitter @ThoseSnakesBand and Facebook @ThoseSnakes

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