Windhand- Soma

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Richmond music scene has produced some great metal bands over the years, and one of the newer ones to start gaining notoriety is Windhand. After releasing their self-titled debut last year, the group wasted little time and have not only put out a split with Cough but also put together an entirely new full length entitled Soma. While they are still rooted in traditional doom, Windhand has branched out significantly on this release and this should help make them able to stand out even more than before.

Soma starts off in a familiar fashion, as the first three songs offer the same type of crunchy grooves and heavy sound that their debut did. What listeners will notice rather quickly is that the sound is a bit less muddy than before while still maintaining the hazier feel from before, making this the best the instrumentals have sounded on any of Windhand’s recorded output to date. The hooks on these initial tracks are just as strong as anything else the band has written in the past and are sure to instantly grab established fans and newcomers alike. But the second half of Soma is where the band really starts to branch out and showcase additional ambition. “Evergreen” turns off the fuzzy distortion in favor of acoustic guitar melodies that let the vocals take the spotlight for the entire track. Even during this acoustic moment Windhand maintains a psychedelic, spiritual feel and it is handled in a way that sucks the listener in and keeps them captivated. After “Evergreen” the final two songs span 14 and 31 minutes respectively, which is longer than the entirety of the group’s last full length. It is always a bit risky when bands tackle material of this length, but the instrumentalists are able to pull it off with stunning results. “Cassock” is more of a straightforward sprawling jam that still manages to impress, but the twisting and turning “Boleskine” that adds in some acoustic sections and changes gears several times helped to make this album one I wanted to keep coming back to.

Vocalist Dorthia Cottrell continues to be one of the reasons that I am drawn to Windhand’s music, as her singing soars over the instrumentals and instantly grabs your attention. There’s a haunting, almost ethereal feel to the performance and it continues to make this group stand out from many of the other doom bands out there. The additional production values have benefited the vocals immensely, as there is an increased level of clarity and they seem to be perfectly balanced with the instrumentals this time around. On “Evergreen” when Cottrell is given additional focus she really impresses, as there is a level of depth to her singing that I don’t remember hearing before. With the sheer amount of groups out there playing this type of material the vocal work really goes a long way in giving Windhand an edge, and they appear to have capitalized on it further with Soma.

I already really enjoyed what Windhand had to offer and was expecting Soma to be another strong showing, but was blown away by what the group has been able to achieve with this release. Everything seems to have been taken to the next level, and the arrangements showcase that this band is not only ambitious but able to utilize the longer track lengths and keep listeners engaged in what they have to offer. Whether you’ve experienced Windhand’s fuzzed out psychedelic grooves before or not, this album’s worth diving into as it has more to offer in both style and substance than one might initially expect.

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