Primitive Origins: Black Widow’s ‘Sacrifice’

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

Welcome to a special Halloweeny edition of Primitive Origins; I wanted to find something appropriate for the time of year, so went back to Brits Black Widow’s 1970 debut, Sacrifice. While not as obscure as we often like to get in this column, it’s a good one for this week, innit?

And, listen, I know the fact that the band features an, ahem, flautist is enough to make a lot of longhairs want to run to the hills, run for their lives, but Black Widow make up for it in other, occult-related, ways. I mean, get a load of the freakie cover art and some of the song titles: you know this is at least worth a bit of your time. But is it worth a lot of your time, which is being pulled in many different spooky directions this week? Well, come on over to the sabbat and let’s find out.

Things start off with “In Ancient Days,” which takes for-fucking-ever to get going, but once it does, with the lite-prog/sexy sax/folk-rock sounds, you just know you gotta be dropping acid to fully understand this ritual. I seem to have no acid handy, but I’m still feeling it, the song kinda gently pulling me into this album, pretty polite as far as ritual invites go, but pretty undeniably fun as well.

“Way to Power” is a killer occult-rock party, the band laying down some sideways boogie rock while also managing to sound actually a bit genuinely creepy along the way. We’re all just waiting for the big song, which is coming up next, but this is a great bridge (scary bridge! Creaking, deathly bridge!) between the opening cut and “Come to the Sabbat,” which, here we go…

“Come to the Sabbat” is the one you might know, but, man, it’s less Black Sabbath than it is… well, I just can’t get past the Sesame Street vibe here, which is awesome, and which just makes me imagine a kinda Satanic Big Bird bopping down a dirty New York back street inviting me to join him in his search for power, which is equal parts terrifying and incredible. I have no idea, but crank this one up this year to lure unsuspecting trick or treaters in to your house of terror, I suppose. This song is a riot, and this song is awesome; I’m never sure how seriously to take it, but, make no mistake, this is an essential track for Halloween 2020, because it’s an essential track for every Halloween.

“Conjuration” is a pretty cool and definitely very spooky mid-album slow burn, one that conjures up images of the dark side of the 1970s in all the best ways, like Welcome Back, Kotter gone occult, while “Seduction” brings the ’70s Disney soundtrack vibes in a pretty big, trippy, drugged-out occult sort of way—it’s a wild ride well worth seeking out.

“Attack of the Demon” picks up the pace a bit, and here the band get organ-happy with a brisk, jolly Tull-ian frolic through lite prog and proto-occult rock, Black Widow rocking damn near happy, as if the members have an ear-to-ear grin as they dance on through the fire.

The 11-minute closing title track totally rules, the excellent production sound bringing out the best in the drums and, heck, even the best in the flute, the band totally going hard here for the conclusion of this pretty great album, the 11 minutes not dragging in the slightest, everything making perfect sense as Black Widow crashes, crashes, crashes to the finish line.

This is a great album, one that manages to overcome the significant obstacle of having a prominent flute on it, and one that will make your Halloween 2020 all the more spooky. Definitely worth spending some time with this year, Sacrifice is really an early occult-rock album that is worth spending time with all year, whether you’re going to the sabbat or just trying to figure out how to get to, how to get to… never mind.

Black Widow’s Sacrifice The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: No, but it’s gonna add to the experience.

Heaviness factor: Mildly heavy, at least as heavy as one can get with a flute.

Obscura Triviuma: This isn’t obscure, but I have to mention somewhere here the band was known for doing “sacrifices” on stage. This, from a band who formed in 1969!

Other albums: There are a handful, as well as live and rarity releases.

Related bands: Pesky Gee (Black Widow’s earlier incarnation), Agony Bag, Sonisk Blodbad, others.

Alright, fine, if you must: Acid. Definitely acid.