'Sleeping With Demons' is the first new Black Widow album to be released for nearly 40 years (38 to be precise). Now that's one hell of a gap! However, never forgotten for the legacy of music they left and controversy engendered through their occult aesthetic all those years ago in an age when the music/black magic combo was an instant offender in the arts, the progressive hard rockers have become something of a cult band. Their biggest 'hit', 'Come To The Sabbat', still occasionally crops up on compilation albums which is how I came to hear of the band around ten years ago. This one is predominantly the work of original member Clive Jones (vocals, saxophone, flute, keyboards), and Geoff Griffith (vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards, harmonica) who joined Black Widow's ranks in 1971, two years before they split. Original vocalist Kay Garret from when they were called Pesky Gee! during the mid-late sixties contributes vocals to one track and Tony Martin, Black Sabbath frontman during the late eighties, sings on opener 'Hail Satan'. And this gets the album off to a strong start - Martin is in fine voice, the track's style pertains to that of their best known song. It's a very enjoyable piece of music but what then follows is patchy to say the least. Three of the worst named tracks in the history of music, 'That's When Evil Touched Me' is a driven by a disco rhythm with some accompanying ambient keyboards and rock guitar scattered throughout, 'Partytime For Demons' sounds like a lost song from the 'Rocky Horror Show' soundtrack and 'Even the Devil Gets the Blues' is the most misplaced track on the album (albeit a nice vehicle to showcase Garret's bluesy vocal tones for which I understand it was specifically written). 'Artefact' is a short drama played out by male and female voices with a script that seems to have been paraphrased from Lamberto Bava's 'Demons'. It's not until track six, 'Eastward', that the album seems to find its feet and settle into stylistic congruence, leading me to think it perhaps would have been advantageous to the flow if songs had been ordered differently - at least the first four would surely have fared better at the end. It's almost as if Jones/Griffith wanted to hit you with the Martin/Garret songs as soon as possible. Still, no ordering of the songs would escape the fact that the music on here is only just above average at best. Production-wise, tracks have a largely muddy sound and the distorted guitars generally sound particularly weedy with no real resonance. Another criticism lies within the plethora of occult themes that feature heavily in the lyrics. For an album that has been touted as "a massive return to the black magic roots Black Widow know so well", the whole thing sounds about as satanic as a slightly angry poodle on a bad hair day. I hate to use the word cheesy but it descends into such at too many moments. Hitler even pops up at one point, on 'Radio Hades'. And the demon/girl coitus noises on the title track are a little cringe-worthy. I sincerely hope Jones/Griffiths' intention was to present their occult themes with tongues firmly lodged in their cheeks as, otherwise, the humour inherent in this album becomes unintentional and thus the two men have resurrected the Black Widow name, and occult rock of yore, as a parody of itself. Whatever the case, and despite all my criticisms, the songs do have a certain charm. And who knows, maybe Black Widow's fans from back in the day will love this. With little prior knowledge of their music, it's impossible for me to make comparative judgements as to whether it's been a wise move for Jones/Griffiths to make a new Black Widow album. For my ears, though, this one is okay but certainly not great.
SLEEPING WITH DEMONS
Review by Mark Holmes
31st Oct 2011
1) Hail Satan; 2) That's When Evil Touched Me; 3) Partytime For Demons; 4) Even the Devil Gets the Blues; 5) Artefact; 6) Eastward; 7) The Portal to Hell; 8) Prelude to the Nightmare
9) Sleeping With Demons; 10) Taken; 11) Radio Hades; 12) Run For Your Life; 13) Into the Light; 14) The Birth; 15) Evil Clock
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"I sincerely hope Jones/Griffiths' intention was to present their occult themes with tongues firmly lodged in their cheeks as, otherwise, the humour inherent in this album becomes unintentional and thus the two men have resurrected the Black Widow name, and occult rock of yore, as a parody of itself."