It had to happen before or after. Black Widow Records is a record company leaded by real fans who has an enormous love for the 70´s music styles, from psych to hard prog and even folk. If you´ve read the interview I did to Massimo Gasperini at progVisions (didn´t you read it?, what are you waiting for?) you´ll know that the label is called Black Widow because of the admiration to the 70´s band with the same name. To make a tribute to that legendary band was a question of time.
For those who don´t know Black Widow´s work (something unforgivable) I must tell you that it´s one of those “damned bands” or “cult bands” that was born in the same time as Black Sabbath. Life is sad and, while Osbourne, Iommi and co. career had a great international success, Black Widow´s music was followed in an “underground” way, something very sad even when Widow´s music was much better –in quality and progressiveness- than Sabbath´s. In the same way, the attitude of Black Widow about dark themes was more serious than Black Sabbath´s (Tommy Iommi always say that BS image and lyrics were a catchy cliché to get fans).
In "Kings of the Witches" there are 16 tracks in 80 minutes that, as I did in other tributes´ reviews, I´ll evaluate individually. The black mass begins, please sit down, ladies and gentlemen:
Clive Jones.- “Intro” (2:00) The legendary Black Widow´s flutist introduce us the tribute with this intense and unreleased intro full of tension and mystery. A great and original surprise full of quality. (8)
Death SS.- “In ancient days” (6:15) Steve Sylvester´s macabre gang is those in charge -as it happened in e tu vivrai nel terrore - of opening fire with the Cd. A disturbing intro, a granite rhythmic section, a sharp hammond and a brutal saxo are the ingredients of this wonderful track. Impressive. (8)
Presence.- “Attack of the demon” (7:00) Unfortunately we cannot say the same of this track. The voice of Sofía Bachini is very good but it finishes being made something hard to listen. Maybe be the metallic and not very imaginative sound of the drums (programmed) or maybe the use of too much technology, but the tries of executing interesting rhythm changes are very forced. (5)
Malombra.- “Tears and wine” (4:05) The band of Mercy (Il Segno del Comando) play a wonderful cover of one of the most Sabbath-like Black Widow´s tracks. Malombra are very comfortable with the chosen song elegido and they put in it all the desires of the world. The voice of Mercy is something that it is necessary to listen to (8)
Northwinds.- “Way to power” (4:54) A folky intro, harmonicas, double guitars´ solos, and a flavor completely 70´s grant to this version one of the high notes of the tribute. Neither joining all the Cds of Sabbath is more progressive as this track of Black Widow. As curiosity, when it will finish the song, Northwinds give us some seconds of the riff of “Paranoid” of the Sabbath (9)
Ars Nova.- “Legend of creation” (5:45) A very 70´s track played by sisters Mika (keyboards); Youichi (vocals); and Noboru (bass) Nakajima together with Aiko Takahashi (drums). The achieved sound is really spectacular and the arrangements a la Styx (in fact the voice of Youichi reminds me very much to Dennis deYoung´s) are quite well. Memorable is the instrumental flare of hammond at half track, very Purple, and the outbursts of moog at the end that show that Mika Nakajima is as good keyboardist as Keiko Kumagai, who doesn't participate in the song. (7.5)
Death SS.- “Come to the Sabbat” (5:27) It is very risky to play the most representative song of Black Widow. A band with a name as Death SS don´t have to be afraid of it (I supose) and the band do a cover with lots of mistery and darkness. Progressive hard rock at its best. (8.5)
The Tempter.- “Conjuration” (4:41) I would like to give a higher qualification to this Spanish band (from Madrid concretely) but the version is slack and it doesn't capture the whole hypnotic spirit of the track. Nevertheless I am very happy to know that in Spain there are bands with a 70´s sound as Triceratops or The Tempter that will give us many happiness. (5)
The Black.- “Sacrifice” (5:52) A really good cover with flanger guitars, harmful hammonds and edgy guitar solos. The instrumental section in the middle of the song is wonderful (7.5)
Church of Misery.- “Accident” (3:57) Japanese band with an image very "thrash" that don't make it too bad, although neither recovers the 70´s spirit neither adds anything new to the version. Simply correct. (5.5)
Eternal Elysium.- “Seduction” (6:00) Another Japanese band, this one looking like psych 60´s bands such as Blues Magoos, that combine some tense and dark initial passages with a hypnotic feeling that marauds during the execution of the whole song thanks to some strange keyboards and a lisergic guitar that take us to an end of high intensity. Very interesting (7)
Wuthering.- “Floating” (4:00) And still more Japanese bands. In this case they are a incendiary mixture among Yes, with a beast-bassist a la Squire, and moments of very symphonic keyboards, and the habitual typical sound discharge of the 70´s hard-prog bands. Without any doubts, another of the best moments in the whole tribute (7.5)
Standarte.- “The Sun” (4:23) Listening to the sound nobody would say that this song has been recorded at the end of 1999. Standarte is, with Abiogenesi, the band that better knows how to maintain the immortal music's spirit. Hammonds to the power. (9)
Fantasyy Factoryy.- “King of hearts” (6:25) This great band –as in “One of these days” of the tribute to Pink Floyd - demonstrates that it is one of the most interesting bands of the international scene. This time, does a very progressive and sweet version of this wonderful track full with shades. (8)
Abiogenesi.- “Mary Clark” (4:04) Abiogenesi´s sound is something that deserves to be experienced... If you have listened its works you will understand me. With “Mary Clark” doesn't defraud at all, although I had preferred that they had chosen another song in agreement with its style. (8)
Widow.- “Come to the sabbat” (5:30) Hmmm. ¿”Come to the Sabbat”?, ¿a band called Widow?, ¿without credits and/or photos in the Cd?, do we give them a 10? (10)
Well, that´s all the tribute to one of the best and more undervalued bands in the history of planet Earth. I hope that thanks to this tribute and to the reappearance of Clive Jones in the world of music –look for his spectacular contribution in the last Cd of Abiogenesi - people discover the wonderful world of Black Widow. If you love hard progressive music full of hammonds and guitars, and if you think that 70´s decade was the best in music's history, you should not pass the opportunity to get this Cd. Of course, fans of Arena or Pallas be abstain, this is another level of knowledge... Ah!, and although this tribute is very good, don't forget to look for the original works of the band. You will thank it to me.