Windhand – “Eternal Return” (Relapse Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Indeed – no title could be more warmly welcomed! From their formation in 2009, this Virginian occult / doom / psych band have been nothing short of spectacular and here, on this 4th album, they have totally nailed it! With an utterly mesmerising sound made up of Dorthia Cottrell’s hypnotic vocals starkly contrasting the mud thick, reverb soaked fuzz exuding from the rest of the band, prepare yourselves to enter the next realm on the 9 enchanting tracks here. Opening with the incredible ‘Halycon’, it feels like there’s 2 songs here, the first being a flowing melodic piece made utterly addictive thanks to Cottrell’s possessive vocals but equally, some excellent guitar work from Garrett Morris matching her ethereal tones with doom melodies and occult soul. It’s then strangely followed by a second, mammoth doom psych noise instrumental along the savage lines of Conan completed by huge doses of space wah and while I’m not sure why Windhand locked these 2 pieces together but in their own right it all seems to work. With a simple, trademark sound I was trying to put my finger on what (if anything) had changed and it has to be the influence of Jack Endino’s (Nirvana, Soundgarden) production and grungy feel in some places. I mean, some of the more melodic elements (at least by Windhand’s standards of heaviness) could be comparable to grunge bands at their heaviest and I could definitely see the likes of Nirvana and definitely Soundgarden playing their own versions of some of the pieces here. Equally, on ‘Pilgrim’s Rest’, the band show their acoustic side on this folky piece that while a departure from their style, still fits thanks to its melancholic atmosphere. Upping the tempo a tad on ‘First To Die’ evidences even more power in Morris’s guitar and moreover Cottrell’s vocals, taking a higher and cleaner approach on this more straight up doom number while ‘Light Into Dark’ is a short psych noise instrumental. Reminiscent of the band’s earlier work is ‘Eyeshine’, a mammoth 11 minute doom fest with plenty of occult elements and drummer Ryan Wolfe really pounding the shit outta his kit while ‘Diablerie’ is ultra heavy grunge fuzz with Cottrell taking a slightly more trippy approach to her still alluring voice. Ending with ‘Feather’, the stance is similar to the opener with a mix of styles from its atmospheric first half before some drawn out feedback leads to a crushing doom second half soothed by Cottrell’s trance tones before fading out like a ghost. A stunning release to say the least, graced by massive contrasts and no less epic in its effect, but gripping throughout ceaselessly.