“Black Willows causes an altered sensory experience of senses, emotions, memories, time, and awareness for 6 to 14 hours, depending on dosage and tolerance. Generally beginning instantly after ingestion, the user may experience anything from subtle changes in perception to overwhelming cognitive shifts. Changes in auditory and visual perception are typical. Visual effects include the illusion of movement of static surfaces (“walls breathing”), after image-like trails of moving objects (“tracers”), the appearance of moving colored geometric patterns (especially with closed eyes), an intensification of colors and brightness (“sparkling”), new textures on objects, blurred vision, and shape suggestibility.”
Maybe you followed that. Maybe you didn’t. But that ^ up there is a perfect description of this band, by this band. Switzerland’s The Black Willows provide a psychedelic musical melt through a trance-like rock approach. Minor heavy metal elements included.
I had a great introduction to this band. About a month ago, my ears stumbled upon their 14 and a half minute epic album closer “Dead Mantra” which took my mind on a musical journey. Not to mention the nostalgic music video complimented the experience flawlessly. Shortly after I got in contact with The Black Willows about hearing the rest of their debut record, “Haze”.
I went into this one not really knowing what to expect. But that’s a good feeling when it comes to music. Turns out both the beginning and the end (the aforementioned “Dead Mantra”) of this album are great. This is trance music, not talking electronic. The opening two minutes make a “Haze” (title intro?) through a natural yet ominous atmosphere, conjuring concealed images and threats in the listeners mind.
The tracks placed between the alpha and the omega may sound alike in some ways but there’s definite variation. It seems as if the album starts low energy then picks up aggression with it’s progression. It almost acts a build up to “Dead Mantra” which is awesome. There are definite stand outs in this pool such as “Neptune”, “Haiku”, “Black Magic”, “Apache” and did I mention “Dead Mantra” yet? Hell yeah I did.
There are a few objective setbacks for some listeners here. The music is well executed but it does feel derivative in some ways. The influences aren’t hard to pick out but the good news is the influences are ace. This isn’t the album to soak in an abundance of technically impressive skill. This isn’t an album for those of you with a short attention span (who probably aren’t reading this review anymore). This isn’t for those of you looking to mosh (but we salute you \m/). This is definitely a straight up rock album, minor Heavy Metal elements aside. This is a record for people looking to soak in a paced, interesting, complex musical experience.
On the other hand there are elements that stick out quite favorably here. The Black Willows live and breathe through their old school approach and it’s great. These band proves to be the real deal and quite professional on top of that. The other thing is the band’s ability to build an atmosphere. The music breathes.
All in all, The Black Willows nailed exactly what they were going for here. Thumbs up. Mission accomplished. In the world of Stoner Rock, this is what they refer to as the cream of the crop. As I said, this was an album I approached not knowing what to expect. It didn’t end up being regular site content for The Circle Pit, but it’s still worth giving a shot. And I’m saying that as someone who doesn’t usually listen to stoner rock. Listen to the music above and see what you think.