Widow’s Peak – Claustrophobe (Self-Released)

Monday, 10th July 2023
Rating: 9 / 10

Remembering those late 80’s to mid-90’s efforts from acts like Atheist and Gorguts that spurred a blitzkrieg movement decades later known as technical progressive death metal, the interest in pushing parameters through diverse influences has not wanted in today’s scene. Canadian quintet Widow’s Peak are another act stoking that fiery blend of intricacy, chaos, and juxtaposed supreme musicianship on this debut album Claustrophobe. This Calgary band has been together since 2016, releasing an EP Graceless in 2018 and revamping their lineup during the pandemic, as three-fifths of the current incarnation came in during these studio sessions.

To dissect this record could be a long-winded process. Suffice to say that for most listeners, these eleven tracks contain a multitude of riffs, progressive syncopation activities, dual scream/growl employment often at blast beat-like speeds during the verses, and lead breaks that can be jazzy, free form one second, then off to the shred Olympics the next. You’ll often hear bassist Alyxx Frayne front and center as the stunted rhythms swing in and out – “Pillars of Fortune” one of his finer efforts, throwing in some nifty pops and a small solo in for good measure. The combination of djent to progressive tech death in such a tight as nails format allows each song distinctive character – stop/start aspects opening groovier sequences before the next sonic assault takes ahold. Pushing his word limit to the brink in faster verse sections of “The Worming Hour”, Travis Godin has his death to passionate scream voicing down pat – like a rabid animal prowling for his next unsuspecting victim. Smaller sound clips / narrative elements seep into specific songs to give that aural cleansing before the next progressive death delivery comes volleying at every angle. The longest song “Heartworms I Aorta” is an eight-minute odyssey into another universe – the quieter instrumental passage from 2:44-4:28 very hypnotic in its clean phrasing as the conclusion contains extreme off-time breakdown brutality that will make for madhouse pit action. Never easy to maintain a crisp sound with clarity amidst all the information present, congratulations to the band (and mixer/master man Colin Marston) to achieve that unified balance for ideal consistent playbacks.

Smartly ending on a softer note with the new age-like instrumental “When the Last Leaf Wilts”, Widow’s Peak have issued a technical progressive death metal album that contains enough circular hooks to garner the right following beyond just the savvy musician cult that will savor Claustrophobe. If names like Beyond Creation, First Fragment, and the already mentioned Atheist/Gorguts align to your preferred tastes, then this is a no-brainer to pick up on as well.

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