YOUNG WIDOWS

Old Wounds

(Temporary Residence Limited)

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In their earlier project, Breather Resist, the founding members of Young Widows encountered the creative dilemma that plagues many hardcore acts: Their bombasts began to lose intensity. At some point, inexhaustible sonic chaos becomes a monodynamic formula. Luckily, Young Widows discovered a new template based on greater articulation and economy that makes the loud moments louder and the malice more menacing. This new appreciation for subtlety provides a blueprint for any heavy band experiencing a crisis of faith.

Their second full-length, Old Wounds, is full of the same grit that marks the finest punk records but succeeds on a grander scale thanks to its remarkable restraint. The band do achieve some spectacular unglued moments, but the album really shines when they rein in the assault. Nowhere is this more evident than on the opening track, "Took a Turn." A lurching bass line drives the first half of the song, accompanied only by brooding vocals and sparse drum work. As the bass repeats measure upon measure, the tension reaches immense proportions, and the band milk it for all it's worth. When the guitar finally kicks in, it feels like the biggest riff in history. This withholding/rewarding tactic is key to Young Widows' battle plan. "The Guitar" summons the ominous minimalism of early Suicide, but just as the song threatens to slide into tedium, it kicks into the feverish Shellac-inspired punctuation of "Lucky and Hardheaded."

Old Wounds ends much as it begins. Halfway through "Swamped and Agitated," everything reduces to a single staccato bass note and a floor-tom beat. The guitar hints at a riff, and they draw it out just long enough before propelling into an electrifying climax of crashing cymbals and triumphant guitar leads. It's the perfect summation for this stark and sinister adrenaline-rush of an album. If only more bands would realize that less is more.