There are over 40,000 known species of spiders in the world, but few of them can even come close to matching the fierceness of the black widow. Its venom is packed with potent neurotoxins that could easily kill a human if left untreated. Maybe it seems like I’m rambling, but I think it’s important to mention a progressive band who happen to share the same name with the infamous arachnid. Being exposed to them may not result in a trip to the emergency room, but their bite is every bit as infectious.
All analogies aside, Black Widow formed in England during the late ’60s as a 6-piece progressive rock act. Following the release of their phenomenal “Sacrifice” in 1970, the band put out their tragically overlooked self titled album. Although it can’t quite stack up to the brilliance of the band’s debut and the satanic imagery is basically absent this time around, the listening experience isn’t any less exciting. This is thanks in part to the fantastic vocals of Kip Trevor who helped spice up the band’s debut. However, it also seems to be the creative use of organs, flutes, and saxophones that really bring their sophomore album to life.
Those looking for another track in the form of ‘Come to the Sabbat’ won’t find it. Instead, they will be blown away by the funky nature of ‘Poser’ which contains flute work very reminiscent of Jethro Tull over some organs and groovy guitars. Not only is the instrumentation top notch, but Kip Trevor also lets out his most demanding vocal performance on the record as he loudly sings against posers. ‘Mary Clark’ is another definite standout, and it’s just as enjoyable as it is unique. A simple but effective guitar pattern is played repeatedly as the band build tension into an unpredictable ending to the song . The final minute of the track is spastic to say the least, with Kip’s vocals becoming increasingly manic and the instrumentation kicking into full force.
Much like “Sacrifice”, Black Widow’s self titled LP is highly consistent, making it difficult to just point out a few key tracks. It’s one of those albums that just sounds best when heard in its entirety. However, the opening track ‘Tears and Wine’ is surely worth mentioning, as it contains some breathtaking saxophone work courtesy of Clive Jones. Although Jones sounds great throughout the album as he spices songs up with flutes and the sax, he really steals the show on the album’s opener, getting things off to a strong start.
Black Widow is an album that manages to be unpredictable, yet it never disappoints. At first, the slight change in sound from their previous album takes some time to digest, but once it does the infection begins to spread faster than a spider’s venom paralyzes its victims. Whether it be the gang vocals on ‘When My Mind was Young’ or the funky vibe of ‘Poser’, the album is full of surprises. Some may think they were playing it safe after the occult-themed Sacrifice, but this assumption is rather misleading. While the band were hoping to reach a wider audience with this release, songs like the unconventional ‘Mary Clark’ or the risky ‘Poser’ suggest they were doing anything but playing it safe. It’s another outstanding release by Black Widow that takes on a new direction musically, but without abandoning the band’s highly original sound.