On True Widow’s second album, the marathon-titled As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth, the Texas slowcore trio dedicates itself so intensely to creating suffocatingly heavy and slow-moving tracks that you wouldn’t be surprised to see clouds of humidity-induced fog coming out of their headphones. This strict aesthetic adherence leads to an album that does not really necessitate individual track descriptions, a potential deathblow to some groups. But to the band’s great credit, they’ve crafted an album that satisfies a very primal part of music listening. How many times have you listened to a song and heard a part that you wished would come up again and again, or didn’t go by so fast? With the exception of a brief, late album acoustic interlude, True Widow delivers moments like these on virtually every track here, and the lugubrious pace at which they are revealed allows their seductive blend of hooks to soak luxuriously in.
The songs that feature bassist Nicole Estill on vocals do the best to exemplify their self-coined “stonegaze” genre tag. Estill’s approaches her vocal performances in a similar manner to My Bloody Valentine’s Belinda Butcher, bringing a warm but detached cool to each track she appears on, while her bass absolutely crushes everything below her, as on the chugging “Skull Eyes.” On opener “Jackyl,” her extended phrasing offers a bright stream of light shooting above the churning instrumental, which pulses and builds before reverting back to its original form, like somebody taking long, deep breaths in and out.
While Estill provides most of the songs’ melodic forward motion and sonic weight, guitarist and co-vocalist Dan Phillips uses his instrument to bring beauty to the proceedings. His restraint is something to be marveled at, as most of his parts revolve around glimmering melodic passages as opposed to merely locking in with Estill to create even heavier payoffs. As a result, the songs where the latter actually occurs, like “Night Witches,” are less memorable. On “Blooden Horse,” Phillips spends the first half of the track creating a poppy, lovelorn tune before abruptly switching things into more foreboding territory. When he’s finally given the chance to let loose over a simple ascending bass part on “Boaz,” it rips the listener out of the calm that prevailed over nearly everything beforehand. It’s an example of True Widow finding variation in the way they deliver their highlights on an album full of them.
The sloth-like speed of these songs leads to some very extended track lengths, with only two non-interlude tracks clocking in at less than five minutes, which may in turn scare off some listeners looking for quick gratification. Those who stick around will be treated to a sort of musical security blanket, jam-packed with hooks and an overall sound that should appease to fans of both the lightly melodic and relentlessly heavy.