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Windhand : Soma

A reminder that Windhand's sophomore, though a few years old now, was a true Stoner Doom classic.

Music can sometimes spark interesting analogies in our minds as to what it makes us think of. Sometimes, I like to think of certain bands as representing different elements. It can be in the name, or simply in the music that they achieve. For instance, High on Fire has so much rage and intensity, that it could clearly be considered fire. Earth, if the name weren't self-explanatory, had a sound so heavy and slow moving, it could be compared to the slow motion of the earth's rotation. Ahab, a band that has always taken a nautical theme, represents water and the ocean. This brings us to Windhand which, to me, inspires air.

As I have moved from the desolate mountainside to the promising state capital of Richmond, Virginia, I have found myself in the hometown of the Stoner Doom giants. As I was already quite a fan of the group long before my entry into the town, seeing how much the community appreciates and reveres them has helped me to appreciate their hypnotic, crushing music all the more. That is why I have chosen to review the band's second output, 'Soma', which was released in 2013.

As of the time of this review, Windhand have only released three albums, and the general characteristics have remained the same over those releases. The band can be summed up as Stoner Doom with anthem-like refrains, repetitive and loud riffs, dreamy female vocals with loads of reverb, and a hypnotic, hazy kind of aura. However, I feel that with each album, the music varies slightly in mood. With the self-titled release, the group gave us occult, spooky sounding Electric Wizard worship. With third release, 'Grief's Infernal Flower' there is a laidback, summery atmosphere that I find oddly light-hearted for a Doom Metal album.

Well, 'Soma' is anything but light-hearted. Out of the three, this second release is easily the slowest, most simplistic, and most desperate sounding. The sparse grey artwork presents a good vision of the music within; spacious and bleak. The uplifting psychedelic influences that came from Electric Wizard are still omnipresent, but taken to a much more personal direction.

The first two tracks, 'Orchard' and 'Woodbine', are the easiest tracks to listen to, allowing the listener to comfortably merge themselves into the album. The main riffs and song structures of the two tracks are almost identical; simplistic bass-heavy riffs with a corrosive guitar tone carry on with repetitive verse-chorus croons from lead singer, Dorthia Cottrell. The chorus of the latter track, 'Woodbine', is ultimately my favorite moment of the album, making for a memorable anthem-like passage that will always stand out to me in Stoner Doom:
"Come on, Satan, surround me!
Oh, your love is like a fire, burning on and on!"

Breaking up the middle of the album is a sparse acoustic ballad entitled 'Evergreen'. Minimal chord progressions and eerie harmonized vocals create this gentle lullaby. The ghostly croon of Dorthia's voice will take you to an image of a desolate countryside in spring time. Those who are familiar with Alice in Chains will pick up on vibes similar to their 'Jar of Flies' release with this particular track.

Tracks 'Feral Bones' and 'Cassock' have darker, more sinister moods than the two opening tracks. Devilish riffs and angrier, more forceful vocal lines guide the way. The latter eventually winds down to a long drone-paced sprawl that foreshadows the drudging, morose slab of Doom that follows; the 30-minute closer track 'Boleskine'.

'Boleskine', the monolithic closing track, is the closest I think anyone has ever come to finding a middle ground between Funeral Doom and Stoner Doom. Passages of wind and acoustic guitar melodies break up humongous sections of loud, harrowing, monotonous Doom riffs. There is a distinguished sense of hopelessness in the lead harmonies and Dorthia's voice, belting out desperate wails. The pace moves at the rate of something one would hear from Skepticism, yet the dank psychedelic atmosphere keeps the music firmly on the path of its ancestors; Black Sabbath, Sleep, and Electric Wizard.

What ultimately makes this album is the atmosphere. Maybe it's just the right amount of reverb or effects, but the production and movement of the songs create an oddly whimsical, windy texture that is truly unique and adds to the mystique of the album. It paints a picture that's much more personal and sinister than the light-hearted marijuana and amplifier worship that has become comical traits of Stoner Metal.

Without hesitation, I would say that this album is worthy of being lined up alongside albums such as 'Holy Mountain', and 'Dopethrone'. It is certainly an essential release of Stoner Doom, and I highly recommend fans of The River and Pallbearer look into it.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Orchard
2. Woodbine
3. Feral Bones
4. Evergreen
5. Cassock
6. Boleskine

Duration : Approx. 75 minutes

Visit the Windhand bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-09-25 by Dante DuVall
Aesthetic Death
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