The members of Dallas trio True Widow have called their music “stonergaze,” for the way they mix elements of stoner metal with shoegazer rock. It’s a somewhat misleading tag for the band’s third album Circumambulation. These are songs rooted to the earth, not created for the cosmos. The music is heavy and repetitive, yes, but it’s too bleak to be mind-altering. The whole album seems to have been composed out of weariness and danger, not bliss; the droning guitars, phlegmatic vocals and down-tempo beats echo with bad vibes. “Creeper” sounds like an angry Spacemen 3, “Numb Hand” is more like Jesus & Mary Chain and Dandy Warhols overdoing it at a Vicodin party.
Throughout Circumambulation, True Widow adhere to a simple, effective formula that revolves around D.H. Phillips’s downtuned, mildly distorted guitar lines, which twist or bend slightly at the end of a measure before returning to their designated course. Nicole Estill’s simple bass lines prevent the tunes from drifting, and drummer Timothy “Slim” Starks’s tight, spare playing on a loosely tuned kit keeps the music thumping with menace. Phillips and Estill split the lead vocals on the whole album, but True Widow are at their best on “HW_R” and “Lungr,” when they both sing, their sedated voices intertwining like poisonous vines. Circumambulation is hardly uplifting, but like Low or Red House Painters, their depression is contagious and in the end somehow cleansing and cathartic.