Windhand - Soma
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Doom/Stoner metal
6 songs (75:13)
Release year: 2013
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Reviewed by Neill

I must admit I'm fairly new to this band. I only heard of Windhand after they released the first track off this album earlier in the year. I was in awe as soon as I heard it. I had to listen to it a few times just to fully comprehend what I was hearing. I was amazed I had never heard of this band before. Needless to say, I went back to check out the prior album Windhand, and their split with Cough called Reflections of the Negative. I was waiting for the new album with baited breath. Once I finally got to hear the new album, Soma the phrase "better late than never" rings very true.

The album starts off with the aforementioned Orchard, and from second one, your know you are in for one hell of a heavy record. The opening riff (as well as most of the album) is just drenched in distortion. Listening to the song on my computer as I type, everything is just rattling. The drums are sharp, and the bass is thick like molasses. I can't help but want to make sure there isn't a thunder storm outside. The vocals come into the song, and they are fantastic. As most doom/stoner records can be, there is plenty of repetition in the music. This can be good or bad on most albums, but for this record, it works perfectly. The simplistic music creates such a groove, you can't help but bang your head like it's your last day on Earth. The song continues on and drives with such force, you can't help but want to hear what the rest of the album has in store. We get some feedback at the end, and we are on to the next.

The second track, Woodbine follows up the opener, and is one of my favorite track I've heard all year. The distorted riffing at the beginning leads way to an amazing vocal delivery. The vocals on the track really bring it up to one of the more catchy songs on the record, and on any Doom album I've heard all year. Singer Dorthia has a beautiful, haunting voice that adds so much to this record already. The music continues the heavy as an elephant, slow pace, and again, the vocals just astound me. The plodding (meant in the best way) continues to drone on until the 6 minute mark of the track, where the rest of the band drops out and we just have a lone guitar riffing over some feedback for about one minute. The rest of the band comes back in and we get a stonerific jam until the end of the song, which also ends in feedback.

Feral Bones the third track on the record goes to change things up a bit, and actually start with feedback. Stoner/Doom metal or not, that's a lot of feedback noise already on this album. The vocals, while not as catchy or amazing as in Woodbine still get a chance to soar to higher registers here, and still add a good accompaniment to the slow, shattering instrumentation. This song, sadly, does not quite live up to what preceded it. The track is not bad by any means, but I feel it can't live up to what came before. Aside from the massive groove and soaring vocals, the song kind of falls flat to me. Also, the track ends in feedback. I have heard plenty of albums in this style that didn't need as much feedback, and it gets annoying by this point in the record.

Evergreen gives us a nice change of pace. While I have (mostly) enjoyed the album up to this point, this is a nice palate cleanser. The song is still slow, but the rest of the band is gone. This track features just a melancholic acoustic guitar and Dorthia's wonderful vocals. The vocals are, as mentioned earlier, just haunting. We do get to hear the breaths being taken in between vocal lines, which may be a distraction to some, as I know friends who cannot stand that. However, I do not mind it. It adds that sense of rawness to the album. It lets the listener know the band didn't want to make everything as "perfect" or "clean" as possible on computer programs. Given that this album has a lot of repetition, there isn't too much to say about passages or certain sections of the songs, but this track shows, as well as Woodbine that there is nothing wrong with that. Everything works as a whole and should be taken as a full song or experience as opposed to parts. The song ends with, amazingly, no feedback at the end. The song fades out and we do get to hear some shuffling in the background. Again, a very nice change of pace on this record so far, and probably my second favorite track.

Amazingly, with only two tracks left, we still have over 40 minutes of music to go. Much like their first record, Windhand leave the longest songs for last. Cassock starts off, again, with a feedback intro before giving way to a pretty nice melody/groove. The vocals get a chance to soar into a higher register again, much like on Feral Bones. The song, while good, suffers the same way the aforementioned Feral Bones did. It had the unfortunate task of following a stellar song. It didn't live up to the predecessor in my mind, but it is still a strong track. There is a lot of instrumentation, and for it's nearly 14 minute playing time, the track goes by pretty quickly, and doesn't drag on. Now though, we get into the real opus of the album. The 30 minute closer, Boleskine.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when starting the final track, Boleskine. At this point, we have heard about 45 minutes of music, and still have 30 minutes left, in one track. I didn't know if the band would be able to keep the track interesting the entire time. It became clear pretty quickly that, yes, they can. The song starts with a sample of wind, and an acoustic guitar. The rest of the instruments kick in around the 2:50 minute mark, and keep the slow and heavy style in tact. The vocals on this song continue to soar, and I have to say, Dorthia is quickly becoming one of my favorite doom vocalists. She stands out so well. The actual music is slow (as mentioned earlier) but more so. This has to be the slowest song on the record, with even more extended periods of repetition. It makes sense given the run time, and I do not mind one bit. The song continue this way to about the mid part on the track. At that point we are treated with the acoustic guitar and wind sounds again. The instruments kick back in, and we have a plodding heavy section repeating until about the 23 minute mark. The music starts to fade slowly, and the wind sample starts to come and go. About the 27 minute mark the song really fades away, and the wind sample picks up even more. This continues until the end of the track with some sounds of scratching or twigs breaking added in. The album comes to an abrupt end, reminding me in some ways of Type O Negative and how some of their songs just end.

Overall, this is an amazing album. The guitar solos featured on the record fit really well, and are very well done. I cannot say enough good things about the vocals on the record, and especially in Woodbine. The album feels very thick, and the distortion is just oozing out of the speakers. The only complaints I have are the feedback. While feedback isn't out of the norm for metal, or doom, I feel it was used a little too much, and there could be less of it. That is a small complaint however. I almost feel like I was trying to find something negative about the album, but it's so hard to do. The album is phenomenal, and one of the best albums I've heard all year.

Do not hesitate to give this album a listen if you are into Doom, or just heavy music. The entire album (as well as prior albums) can be heard on their bandcamp.

Killing Songs :
Orchard, Woodbine, Evergreen, Boleskin
Neill quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Windhand that we have reviewed:
Windhand - Grief's Internal Flower reviewed by Charles and quoted 80 / 100
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