Review Summary: "Have you ever read the books that I wrote centuries ago?"
No, Kip, they haven't. And that's the problem. Okay, so maybe it hasn't been centuries
, but, really, it's a greater sin of the modern age of music that more people haven't heard of Black Widow. Maybe it's understandable that they never came to a fever pitch in their heyday - only a fraction of the public were buying the occult goods Black Widow were selling on Sacrifice
back in 1970. And most of them were buying the watered down stuff Black Sabbath was selling them, not wholesale chants of "Come, come, come to the Sabbat, Satan's there!"
In a lot of ways, Black Widow were really victims of circumstance. Relative conservatism aside, plenty of other (now) huge bands were only getting their footing at the same time. And in the wave of Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, and, yes, Black Sabbath, you might see how prog rockers who put on a live performance of the Satanic ritual their album describes managed to fade into the back of the crowd.
Of course, a performance as wild and well-executed as that of Sacrifice
can't be ignored forever, and while the band's contract with CBS records may have fizzled and any popularity they'd garnered waned in the wake of later, softer albums, plenty more still caught on, even if they weren't in droves. The sounds of Sacrifice
have been paid tribute to by artists as recent as Propaghandi and have, without a doubt, influenced a far greater number of musicians. This is metal before metal and prog at some of it's earliest steps and its impact reverberates throughout music as we know it.
That said, "metal before metal" should be taken for what it is - dark, occult lyrics, heavy sections largely produced by drumming and bass backed by eerie organs, distorted vocals, chants, and tribal moans (see the intro of "Come to the Sabbat"). There are no heavy, distorted guitars or pounds of compression, yet the dark feelings and weighty emotions of metal are sewn throughout Sacrifice
in an even more primordial way than that of the painted-up music that would follow in its footsteps. Darkness dwells not in the flesh, but in the soul.
Yet the prog gift wrapping to this dark package is so enticing that even if the darker themes aren't your thing, the core dynamic of experimental rock music on Sacrifice
should bring a twinkle to your eye. Yes, the spirit may be dark, but the mesh of light acoustic guitars, organs, pianos, saxophones, clarinets, and flutes creates an unmistakably symphonic approach to the sinister, at many times contrasting the dark sounds of the rhythm section and creating more of a light overtone than a dark one. In fact, one of Black Widow's big issues was a constant, fairly undue comparison to Black Sabbath. They're somewhat close in the tone behind the music (though Sacrifice
should show Black Widow to be much darker), but in terms of musical direction, Sacrifice
is much closer to King Crimson and Jethro Tull than most other acts their age. Again, we're not watching the Tony Iommi fretshow here, but rather Clive Jones' droning, low sax lines and high, medieval piping on the flute.
But while Jones may be the standout, it's the combined musicianship of the whole band that make Sacrifice
a masterpiece. The rhythm section (and Jones's sax, too) are absolutely crucial to creating the core of darkness this occult ritual has at its heart. The flutes and higher-end organ parts play into the pleasant atmospheres and ritual tokens needed to summon the love demon Astaroth (particularly on "Seduction"). Guitars, mid-range organs, vocals flesh out the experience by performing the conjuration - adding flair and making sentiment into the acknowledged statement that calls the demon forth. Whether it's at its darkest in the "Hall of the Mountain King" inspired "Come to the Sabbat," churning out flower power in monkey-along "Seduction," or simply bopping along to the scat-backed rock of "Attack of the Demon," all of the ritual components on Sacrifice
have been assembled to call forth the perfect dark progressive experience. It's simply too bad for Black Widow that they seem to have gotten the kind of deal you get from wishing on a monkey's paw: an absurdly brilliant prog performance unheard by many, if not most.