I've been following In This Moment's career ever since its birth with their 2007 debut Beautiful Tragedy. Their sound has changed and evolved with every album as many metal bands often do. I am almost always supportive with changes even if I still hold preference to the older material - this goes for bands like Within Temptation, Nightwish, and Tristania, who have all sparked quite a bit of controversy based on the changes in their music. But I still loved it. That was how I felt about all of In This Moment's albums from Beautiful Tragedy to Blood.
But there's only a limited amount love in my heart for Black Widow. The way the sound has changed overall by adding occasional synths in the midst of the melodic metal doesn't bother me one bit, but it's the songwriting and some of the vocal styles that make me dissatisfied with a number of songs
This album begins with a creepy intro called "The Infection," which sort of sounds like a horror film advertisement. It certainly sets a tone, and as it crescendos it builds anticipation for what's to come... But then we finally make it to the first song where the band is really present, "Sex Metal Barbie," (yes, that's what they called it) and it is quite an anticlimactic start. Maria Brink sounds like a robot at the end of the chorus but I'm not entirely sure what she's trying to accomplish vocally in the verses. It's sort of a mocking sound, which suits the song lyrically as she's addressing the spiteful things people say about her on the Internet, but it just doesn't sound great. Just when I think I might like the middle eight, Brink is just repeating "Sex! Sex!" and all I can think is that they're trying way too hard to catch someone's attention.
The Brent Smith duet "Sexual Hallucination" irks me in a similar way. The duet actually sounds very good, the music itself sounds pretty decent, but again, I just feel like they're trying a little too hard in this department. Lyrics like "This is what I crave / To be your slave" (rather demeaning, eh?) have me rolling my eyes in utter disappointment. Not to mention "We both converge as one."
Fortunately this issue doesn't really repeat. The most common issue with Black Widow is that some of the songs often reach for the stars and fail. Their lead single "Sick Like Me" started out in such an interesting way with the sirens and the guitar-heavy breakdown before the verse begins, but then the rest of the song doesn't live up to the intro and ends up being rather boring, and this is the same problem I had with the title track. "Sick Like Me" is really just a combination of "Blood" and "Adrenalize." The ballad "Out of Hell" would have been very pretty with its subtle piano, but Brink's vocals manage to detract from the song: She's quite whispery. I have no problem with soft singing, but one needs the diaphragm more than ever when singing softly.
However, there are a few songs that managed to win me over. Their second single, "Big Bad Wolf," is quite heavy with its thrashing guitar riffs packed full of energy. Maria Brink's voice gets a chance to shine in different ways - especially that powerful chorus and that killer middle eight where she screams "PIG!" Her vocals in the verses are unconventional, ragged, and choppy and it definitely works in this setting - Brink is a force to be reckoned with here.
"Bones" has most recently caught my attention as a standout track and it tells the story of a rather reliant relationship. It's my favorite song from Black Widow. The verses are more subtle with a dark and eerie vibe while the explosive chorus sounds simply amazing... This is the type of quality I expect from In This Moment. It's heavy but easy to sway to. The lyrics remind me of the crazy relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy in Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights: "You are my god / You are my soul / You're my savior in a devil's world / And I can't exist without you / I can't exist without you / [...] I'm gonna lie with your bones forever."
"The Fighter" is definitely one of the best songs Black Widow has to offer. At first I wasn't fond of it because it sounds like Brink is really straining (quite painfully) in a lot of parts, but techniques aside, this song brings chills. This piano-led powerhouse is reminiscent of their older song "The Blood Legion," for they both have an epic chorus that's of a similar chord progression. I immediately liked "Natural Born Sinner" as the vocal line is extremely similar to that of "Beast Within," which was one of my favorites from Blood, but "Natural Born Sinner" definitely takes a more serious turn. I'm sure many will shout "Amen" as Brink challenges "GO AHEAD AND POINT" and states in the chorus that she's against the oppression and labeling of LGBT individuals. The main issue is that I'm more likely to listen to the songs they're reminiscent of - musically, they aren't the most unique.
So, there are occasional strong highlights in the midst of what I consider to be a disappointing album. Unfortunately Black Widow suffers from some uninteresting songwriting and some vocal flubs, and it surprises me that In This Moment actually managed to make an album I can't be very enthusiastic about... But, they change with each release so perhaps I'll like the next album better. Time will tell.