Canada’s superb Thrash Metal band started off strong, releasing their best two albums first, and the next three albums they released were also pretty darn good, but the critics and audiences drifted away. Then they released the ill-fated and misguided Remains album in 1997, and needed a major rethink to get back on track.
1999’s Criteria For A Black Widow was that rethink. The linear notes on the reissue state it was originally meant to be called Sonic Homicide but the record label at the time changed it. The big talking point on this record is that the line-up from the band’s classic debut Alice In Hell was back. The artwork harkens back to Alice In Hell. There’s even an instrumental track called ‘Schizos (Are Never Alone) Part III’ which harkens back to parts I & II of the same name from the debut too.
(Also, confusingly, there’s a track called ‘Back To The Palace’ that clearly refers both lyrically and musically to ‘The Fun Palace’ from not the debut, but the sophomore record. Hey its still calling back to some of their best material, but slightly off theme!).
Now; in terms of righting the ship, this album is undoubtedly a huge step up from the controversial Remains album which preceded it. Unfortunately however it didn’t reach the insanely high quality of the band’s near-perfect debut album. Arguably, its not even the best album they released during Thrash Metal’s wilderness period in the 1990s. King Of The Kill and Refresh The Demon were a lot better than you’d expect for their lack of fame, its just the grunge focused times and lack of record label/press support that hindered their success.
That’s not to say it’s a weak album, its just not the huge return to form and game-changer it was intended to be. There’s still some damn fine material to be found. The Pantera-influenced ‘Nothing Left,’ the speedy ‘Double Dare’ and the title track that never was especially, ‘Sonic Homicide’ are all worth checking out.
There are however a few draw backs, such as a few underwhelming tracks like the disappointing ‘Punctured’ and ‘Criteria For A Black Widow’ which don’t quite reach the band’s usual high standards, and returning singer Randy Rampage doesn’t quite recapture the old magic here either. This material would mostly probably have suited lead guitarist Jeff Waters singing on it like the last few albums.
Its not the worst Thrash Metal album from 1999 (Just ask Megadeth what they were up to at this time); but if you were expecting Alice In Hell part two, expect into one hand… you know how the old saying goes.