Originally written by Matt Longo
What set apart the Dragged into Sunlight debut Hatred for Mankind was its sense of purpose — a singular, grimy probing finger reaching across the pond from Liverpool as a horrific reminder of the ugliness and depravity lurking beneath American surface tension. They presented chilling sound bytes from Maury Travis and Charles Manson in a single song, challenging you to find meaning in the juxtaposition, stabbing at possible narrative. Not to mention the provocative album art by Justin Bartlett, which I like to imagine as a warning scrawled by the survivor of a secret demonic ritual onto ripped tree bark using char from their captor’s sacrificial flames…
…kinda like a Valerie Page scenario — still convoluted, but with lots more otherworldly evil.
That also sounds like the art direction of Sindre Foss, who created the monstrosity covering Widowmaker. It’s just too fucking complicated to have any impact. There are cool touches, like all the little tentacles reaching from the upper-left symbol as if it’s actually alive, plus that all-black bird nearby is badass. But then there’s this other bird, and it’s sorta perched / attached to Blackso McDrippyhead, who is launching a lance into the crotch of some humanoid, whose head is up another’s orifice that’s also stabbing itself, and crowned by a third who appears to be missing a wing and is… picking its teeth? Whatever that all stands for, it does not befit the music, though Foss’s fine line work is admirable, and I like the twisted take on black-figure found elsewhere on his website.
The implications of the band name scream resistance — it reminds me of when we first meet James Woods as Jack Crow at the beginning of John Carpenter’s Vampires. Being “dragged into sunlight” is a framework that begs for an interpreted storyline. What is the end result: Burst into flames? Vanish into dust? (Please don’t say glitter; bad things happen when that word gets involved. Go on… check, you scoffers.)
When we last left Dragged into Sunlight, they were awash in putrid feedback on the aural experiment “Totem of Skulls” — not the most impactful way to end an album, but hey, at least you could cut early. Maybe I wasn’t the only one who thought that, and maybe DiS noticed that same sentiment from some critics in the years between albums, and ultimately decided to torment the shit out of its audience. Or maybe they read the praise of Danhammer when he hailed the track as “almost more sonically-arresting than the rabid clattering of the rest of the album”. Let me add: Where the rest of Hatred may be more “metal”, its closer is actually goddamn scary. And making “scary music” is what Black Sabbath themselves said they were going for since the very beginning, so isn’t that a main point?
Well, we are heavily stretching this time on Widowmaker, and at nearly fifteen minutes, “Part I” can initially be an agonizing exercise. My own opinion of the song evolved thusly: 1) pretty much irritated at taking so dang long; 2) DiS is trying to transport the listener directly into the mindset of a victim, tortuously waiting for their own inevitable vicious attack; 3) the band actually shot for ‘Longest Album Intro’ in the Guinness Book of World Records; 4) after creeping up on six plays and directly following a session of Hatred for the first time, Widowmaker became more enjoyable than ever (although Vitamin W was an x factor). Nevertheless, any way you slice it, a delicate quarter-hour slow-burn is a downright yawning lead-in and — for better or worse — is probably the biggest middle finger on a sophomore set to date. As mysterious monoliteral masked murder junkies, that makes sense.
Dudes got chutzpah for declaring Widowmaker “everything heavier and everything louder than everything else” …shoot, that’s a Motörhead reference if I ever heard one. Honestly, it’s more like “everything LONGER than everything else on the last album”, and if we’re talking serious Motörhead comparisons paired with serial killer subject matter, Dragged into Sunlight basically just called out Church of Misery… and these Scousers are NOT heavier than Church of Misery; even when they lock into the same grooves as the Japanese trio (during the main riff of “Part II” for example), they slog rather than rollick, and we need more evidence to build a case either for or against them.