Anticipation can be a giant, miserable asshole just waiting to put the dampers on something you’ve really been looking forward to hearing. Yet, it comes with the territory when a band builds a reputation and a fanbase, and despite it ramping up people’s hopes to sometimes unattainable levels, it still means you’re doing something right.
Ever since I learned Windhand would unleash their third album this year, I’ve marked off the days (not literally … I’m not a psycho) until that music would be in my possession and their latest work would be rummaging through my head. Look, sites like mine aren’t always going to be on the top of every publicist’s priority list, but I try to take some chances sometimes. As soon as I got the first press release announced the band’s “Grief’s Infernal Flower” I inquired about a promo, and wouldn’t you know it, about 15 minutes later I was listening to it. That gave me ample time to pore over this thing, a record that either would crush me with disappointment or satisfy my high hopes, and luckily, the latter is what wound up happening. The nine track on this new opus are slow driving, murky, and smoldering, and it arrives at a perfect time when the weather starts getting chillier. I always delve more into doom during this time of the year, and this record could be the album of the autumn.
No doubt Windhand drink deeply from the chalice of Sabbath (you can hear it in the riffs and drubbing pace), and the presence of vocalist Dorthia Cottrell takes this band to a new level. Her smoky delivery and bloody honest tales sound like the perfect companion for a dark night by many candle lights, cobwebs blocking the corner of the window, and you visiting the ghosts in your head. She is one of the modern era’s most captivating, recognizable vocalists, and her singing can entrance and splatter in the same line. Along with her are mighty duel guitarists Asechiah Bogdan and Garrett Morris, bassist Parker Chandler, and drummer Ryan Wolfe, and they’ve created a new record that should elevate them even higher among doom’s elite and hopefully put them in front of larger audiences.
The record’s opening track “Two Urns” starts with crackling fire and riffs opening up. Once the track really gets moving, Cottrell’s singing drives the way, ripping into a soulful chorus where she pleads, “Go on and do something good for me now.” The lead guitars charge up and bring oppressive heat, while the track rounds back to the chorus, and the song slowly trudges to an end. “Forest Clouds” has sounds sizzling and guitars digging into the dirt, with Cottrell ominously weaving, “I made your bed, I pulled the covers down, I tucked you in, I put you in the ground.” There soloing really catches fire and rages forward, the smoke builds, and the track rivets right to its end. “Crypt Key” has a misleading start, as acoustics are strummed, but then the song bursts open, with a really strong chorus that’ll stick in your head, and sticky riffs that bring you along for every wave of the ride. “Tanngrisnir” is another that easily sticks with you, with fuzzed-out riffs creating cloud cover, a catchy, noisy tempo, and a simple refrain Cottrell hammers home with her delivery. The song gets into muddy territory later, with the soloing ripping out and torching you all over again.
“Sparrow” is a bruised, beaten, death-love song, an acoustic-driven cut that lets Cottrell have the spotlight, as she calls, “I love a man whose love is violent,” and it unravels from there emotionally. Her voice is naked and vulnerable, as she admits, “Our love is running out of breath.” “Hyperion” tears out of that with guitars chewing the ground and a major Sabbath-style assault. The vocal melodies are infectious, and the guitar work fills your lungs with dust. “Hesperus” is the longest track on the album at 14:27, and it has a slow, bluesy edge, with Cottrell’s words naming the album’s title. The track mauls in a calculated manner, making the most of its run time, and Cottrell sings through the fog, later warning, “I am the love that only devours.” The track takes a trippy turn, with the final few minutes filled with spirited, channeled playing. “Kingfish” runs 14:19, and it’s the one area that feels a little flat at first. The riffs seem a little like ones we’ve visited before, though the vocals inject life into the first half. But at about the halfway point, things change, and song fully develops. It erupts into a psychedelic haze, shifting into strange echoes, spacey weirdness, and the feeling like you’re floating off into the clouds, with the band supplying you with a bizarre flying machine to get there. Nice comeback. Closer “Aition” is a dark lullaby, once again featuring Cottrell and an acoustic guitar, as she puts the final, creaky sentiments on this record, tucking you in and burying you underground.
Windhand faced some lofty expectations with “Grief’s Infernal Flower,” and they do a damn good job meeting, and in some cases exceeding, them on these nine songs. The band sounds confident and full of power, and the songs should come off even heftier and burlier live. The leaves will be dead soon, crunched beneath our feet, and the air will grow chilly, meaning it will be a perfect time to have Windhand in your ears.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/WindhandVA
To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html
For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com