YOB and USX Make Sweetfreaky Love, Give Birth to Windhand’s Soma
Most music asserts itself as an interruption of silence, a filling of the sonic void, just as most paintings exist as a buildup of pigments on a blank canvas. Pop music depicts recognizable (if occasionally impressionistic) figures engaged in familiar human activities. Radio rock dresses that same canvas in leather and facial hair and calls itself edgy. Jazz traffics in moody patterns and color studies. Soul is all sensual swirls and blends. Psyche fills the empty space with spirals of overlapping bubbles. Rap deals in shiny metallic pointillism. Even most metal scores its tight, jagged designs into that otherwise bare white.
Windhand, and other bands making similarly suffocating melodic doom, are painters of a very different sort. Instead of stroking their sounds onto a dry, sober canvas, Windhand use chords like cascading waves of black paint coursing down the easel, then they thrust their color-filled brushes into the torrent and watch the darkened eddies twist and disintegrate down the fluid surface. Translation: the doom riffs are maddeningly repetitive, but focusing on that guitar work (as you would with just about any other type of metal) misses the point. That’s just the backdrop. Overtop all that crawling thunder are a mass of brilliantly textured solos and spaced out vocal melodies. While three-fifths of these Richmond, Virginians focus on scenic enhancement, at least one guitarist (Asechiah Bogdan and Garrett Morris get equal billing here) and vocalist Dorthia Cottrell carve reverbed fear-bliss into that congealing night.
This review mostly targets the doom converted, or the perpetual sloth skeptics, so we’ll forego any more redundant explanations of Windhand’s consistent, reliable doom sound. Most of the songs here play like YOB and USX making sweetfreaky love. Fourth track “Evergreen” goes all morose acoustic cowboy (in a robed Summerisle girls sort of way), because hey, Steve Von Till deserves some love, too. Similarly, the 30-minute endpiece “Boleskine” whispers in with two-and-a-half minutes of laidback strum, but then (of course) the soul-cracking doom lays in and the monstrous track fulfills the promise of all the songs that came before it.
I caught Windhand live in Baltimore last October when they took part in the inaugural Autumn Screams Doom event. I saw t-shirts repping the band all weekend, but at the time I didn’t recognize the name. Since then, they’ve release a split with Cough and this sophomore full-length (both on Relapse), as well as having signed on for Mr. Akerfeldt’s 2014 edition of the Netherlands’ Roadburn. Quite the strong, steady rise. If you like your doom gut-rumbly loud and caked with witching-hour clean vocals, make your next getaway a Soma vacation.