Album Review

Windhand - Soma

Released September 17, 2013
Lisa Sanchez
Windhand's new album Soma has all the great earmarks of a band that is older than its time. Imagine you're able to travel back to 1967 through a combination of acid and perseverance. With ringing atmospheric guitars, hypnotic rhythms, stirring vocals, and prolonged songs, Windhand lets me imagine what it would be like if sludge-metal existed in the 1960s.

Virginia quintet Windhand brings a little bit of Southern groove to the metal-world with their new album Soma.Soma threw me back to an era I only know about from my mom's old Led Zeppelin records. Windhand has created something personal to give to the audience-at-large and they take their time with it. This is one of the first metal bands I've heard that doesn't try to out-do each other by playing fast, but they still manage to keep the beat interesting and the songs groovy.

Windhand's songs have the special ability spiral off into a state of tantric rhythm accompanied by Dorthia Cottrell's soothing and hypnotic vocals. Both the first and second track, "Orchard" and "Woodbine" are immediately confrontational and intoxicating. Admittedly, their musical composition sounds very similar, but each song has its own mystical sense that lets the listener feel their way through each minute of the building impact.

However, Soma isn't all just a hearse made of static guitars and bad trips. Halfway through the album comes Windhand’s "Evergreen", a song that lends credence to their somewhat hippie-cult band name. It's a lovely, mellow, acoustic number and it was the first song on the album that made me realize a woman performed the vocals. Yep. Dorthia is a girl's name. Slipped that one right by me for the first twenty minutes of the album. "Evergreen" is amazingly intimate and personal; you can hear Cottrell's fingers slide along the frets of her guitar and feel the ring-back in the speakers. It's like getting the basement-show experience without having to crowd around spastic 16-year olds drinking 40s.

After the alluring simplicity of "Evergreen" comes a song that must be the noise incarnation of what it's like to come off of methadone. "Cassock" is sprawling thirteen-minute epic that builds up to fervor, drops to incantations, and then finishes with sputtered instrumental noise. The variation of structure and noises in "Cassock" alone are worth giving Soma a listen. Plus, it's probably cheaper than drugs.

Lastly, Windhand take us on an epic 30-minute-plus journey through their last song "Boleskine". Use of a whistling wind sound effect throughout the song chills so close to the bone the Donner party wouldn't have shit on all the flesh you will eat. That's pretty much the best description of the song in total. It's heavy, steadfast, remorseless, tantalizing, and a little evil. Then again, how can you not be multi-faceted and well rounded in a thirty-minute song?

On a personal note, one of my favorite aspects of the album was Dorthia Cottrell's voice. It does not detract or add to any one song (with the exception of Evergreen), but merely acts as another instrument in a finely tuned cacophony. She possesses vocals that I haven't heard anywhere else in music and she accomplishes it without pulling focus from the overall aesthetic that Windhand has created with Soma.

My absolute recommendation is to check out Soma. It has too many interesting musical elements to write it off as just a genre piece. I averaged all of the song times (thanks high school math) and it comes out to about twelve minutes per song including their final thirty-minute ode to turning your brain into multiple squids. Despite the lengthy aspect of the album, Windhand is doing something different, both in the doom/sludge arena and in composition in general. So, check it out because, you know, drugs are expensive.