Sunday, December 14, 2003

Review: Black Widow - Satan's Playground (2003)

Black Widow [ Website | MySpace ]
Satan's Playground

Formed in 1997, Maryland-based Black Widow originated as an '80s metal cover band. An uncommon aspect for a band of their type, and perhaps the catalyst (no pun intended - really) for venturing from cover band into original work, is the fact that Black Widow is female-fronted. Leadwoman "Cat" possesses a voice that lies somewhere between the strength of Doro Pesch and the sass of Liza Minelli. Musically the band is pure '80s heaviness, taking the hardest elements from their influences (Judas Priest, Saxon, Dokken, and of course Iron Maiden) and crafting a debut album that is powerful and infectious while paying tribute to melodic metal of the '80s.

"Black Sunshine" sets the pace of Satan's Playground with Tommy Azzinaro's rumbling double-bass and John Anthony's thrashy riffs. The sound is very much reminiscent of early thrash greats such as Anthrax and Testament, but Cat's distinctive voice adds a layer of freshness that sets Black Widow apart from the multitude of retro metal bands on the scene today. Powerful and emotive, Cat sings with confidence in her abilities. The first of my many favorites on Satan's Playground is "Ends Of The Earth". John's melodic riffs and snappy licks literally force you into air-guitar mode, while Cat's amazing vocals are a treat for the ears (sounding much like Doro on this track). The title track opens similar to Ozzy's "Mr. Tinkertrain", with the sounds of children playing soon replaced by tones both evil and ominous. John's chunky riffs bring to mind early Metallica as Dean's bass swirls just below the surface. An expressive, and extended, solo by John punctuates the high quality of this tune. Another of my favorites is "Night Chills", which begins with the sounds one might hear on any given night - crickets, an owl, the mournful ring of a distant churchbell, the deep moan of a zombie. John once again kicks in with an awesome riff that fits seamlessly with Dean's bass lines. On this track, John's solo is of a more shredding kind that reminds me of our own Motor City Madman - Deadly Tedly Nugent. Wrapping things up on Satan's Playground is "Heavy Metal Warrior", but this is not your average leather and spikes ode to the world's finest form of musical expression. John's maniacal shredding to open the song gives way to a locomotive riff, all underscored by Dean's rumbling bass. Cat is at her strongest here, supported by fist-pumping gang choruses. Well-executed and infectious, this song is my personal favorite of the album.

Calling to mind the sound made popular by those metal greats of the '80s, Satan's Playground is a kick-ass example of a band staying true to their roots while creating a work that is as fresh and exciting as it is nostalgic. The musicianship is flawless, and Cat lends an air of uniqueness that boosts Black Widow above the pack. Pleasing to both classic metal purists and those that just want their metal loud & hard, this album should be considered a must-have for any metalheads collection.

Track Listing
1Black Sunshine
2Silent Scream
3Ends Of The Earth
5Now It's Over
6Satan's Playground
7Brain Damage
8Winds Of Fire
9You're Guilty
10The Unknown
11Night Chills
12Heavy Metal Warrior

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