The Swamp Sweat of Young Widows

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  • There’s a churning tone to the swamp. The thrum of life and death hovers on the thin line between soupy air and viscous marsh. A choir of nervous insects harmonizes a caffeinated canopy over coiled predators and their prey, living in defensive torque until the water explodes and river birds cry out from the balconies.

    This simmer has sustained Louisville, Kentucky’s Young Widows for over ten years, and their new b-sides collection DECAYED is a series of deep gulps of that moist, warm air. When they were Breather Resist they hung a sinewy flank of metalcore on hooks of trumpet, brutal leitmotifs built on deep painful breaths and earth-churning riffs. Each song on Charmer was layered in singular moments that slithered through fingers, parts sutured into a deceptively limber beast that stunned on the first listen but revealed a little more bone with every spin.

    Young Widows sprang out a member lighter, but no less steeped in the bog. Their first, Settle Down City, re-dressed some b-sides in a ghillie suit stitched with The Jesus Lizard’s spittle and swagger. The melodies were belted at a lower RPM, which deepened their seeping dread, but there weren’t any real standout specimens. Young Widows couldn’t slough their dead skin until they replaced their long-time drummer, finding a new pulse, a chest-clearing meticulous rumble that re-set their spine.

    From there they split open their recordings. With Kurt Ballou producing, Old Wounds was conjured between the studio and a few live sessions, finally setting Young Widows apart from their past and their influences. The bass was still thick as hanging vines, twisting around wound-up rhythms—but they spread out their sonics and began to really embrace reverb, chorus, and silence. These weren’t unfamiliar tools to the members of Young Widows, but their total command of the stage brought a sense of subtlety that only served to intensify the explosive moments. They became the alligator’s stare and her bite.

    From there it was a matter of caramelizing the snarling curses into syrupy dirges. They kept a boiling cauldron of pain, frustration, and glimpses of sun-spun beauty. Young Widows tweaked their smoldering incantations from album to album, and DECAYED does more than collect the detritus—it’s a map of the hidden footpaths through their roiling bayou. It culminates on the original version of “Swamped and Agitated,” later re-recorded for Old Wounds, a song that swirls and slides around a few of their tried and gnarly moves until it settles into a bellowing throb. The slightly echo that pings out ever so off the beat, the croaking bass like a dark cabin covered in moss, and those enormous drums that constantly threaten to consume all.

    Young Widows shears their inspirations into new suits, stepping out into the shimmering air four buttons down and preaching from a rotting altar. DECAYED is not just a scrapbook of loose ends but a collection of resplendent moths, splayed and pinned under glass, scooped from the night and squirming.

    Photo by @vviezphotography

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