This is the hardest review I’ve ever had to write. In the almost two years of Amps and Green Screens’ existence we have seen our share of highs and lows, with the highs being fantastic records that we got to hear before the masses, and the lows being some god-awful ones I wish had never sullied my ears. But that’s OK, because usually in those cases I didn’t have mega-high expectations. Which brings me to IN THIS MOMENT and their new album Black Widow. Many of you already know my deep love and history with this band, and how they have been instrumental in helping me cope over the last seven years with losing my mother. She died the morning after my first ITM show, and “Beautiful Tragedy”, “Dying Star”, “Into the Light”, and “World In Flames” are my go-to songs whenever I’ve had a few and want to sit and think about her. These also never fail to bring me to tears as I cherish those memories.
Sadly, there is no such song on Black Widow. Well, maybe one. And there’s not much in the way of rockers, either. After three full listens I’m not sure how to process what it is I’m feeling. What I do know is that as good as 2012’s Blood was it was the beginning of a disturbing trend with this band. Electronics started creeping their way in, not unlike the spider referenced in the album title. I was fine with that as long as the rock was still solid. On this one, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, here. There are a few diamonds in this rough, but you’ve got to really hunt for them. “Big Bad Wolf” is one, and it’s actually the first track I found myself liking after suffering through awful opener “Sex Metal Barbie.” I’m trying my hardest not to rip some of these songs to shreds, but at the same time I am not gonna lie to you guys; I love and respect you too much, and at the end of the day YOU are what makes A&GS what it is.
Luckily “Dirty Pretty” is another gem that has a real bounce to it and should go over very well live on the upcoming tour. “Sick Like Me” is a terrific song, and as the first single it’s a tad misleading because it implies a slight continuation of the experiments on Blood. Often this record is more like George Lucas going full overkill on the special effects like in the deplorable 1997 cut of Star Wars. “Black Widow” is glorified synth-pop nonsense, and speaking of pop, someone PLEASE tell me what the hell is going on with “Bloody Creature Poster Girl” because I-I just can’t…On a more positive note “The Fighter” ranks right up there with some of the best ballad work the band has ever done. Maria Brink’s voice is just outstanding, and THIS is the emotional connection I want from IN THIS MOMENT!!
Brent Smith from SHINEDOWN guest stars on “Sexual Hallucination” a pretty good track, though six minutes and change is too much. “Bones” brings a hearty injection of dark and creepy rock to the fray and “Natural Born Sinner” is another tune that shows how to experiment in a good way. The interlude of “Into the Darkness” features Maria sparring back and forth verbally with a male inner demon voice for 1:30, and then sobbing, yes sobbing for the final 1:20. I guess this is supposed to be empowering but it completely derails any kind of groove the album had settled into. Thankfully they saved the best for last with closer “Out of Hell”. Just Maria and a piano, it is heartfelt and moving, and will surely take its place among this band’s greatest compositions.
Overall, is Black Widow terrible? No, it’s not. But it is certainly the weakest link in an otherwise stellar catalog of albums. I’m disappointed. And I want my old IN THIS MOMENT back. This review will probably be the first and last one I do with the blessing of the folks at Atlantic Records because I’m sure most people there won’t be pleased to read this. Imagine how I feel. And I’m sure I can kiss that interview with Maria I’ve been clamoring for goodbye, too. But I HAVE to be honest and unmerciful. It’s the only way I know.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Out of Hell”, “Sick Like Me”, “The Fighter”, “Big Bad Wolf”, “Natural Born Sinner”, “Dirty Pretty”