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Windhand - "Soma" (CD)

Windhand - "Soma" CD cover image

"Soma" track listing:

1. Orchard (6:38)
2. Woodbine (9:40)
3. Feral Bones (8:00)
4. Evergreen (6:57)
5. Cassock (13:45)
6. Boleskine (30:30)

Reviewed by on October 8, 2013

"Windhand could have elevated their status with 'Soma,' but instead flounder with half-baked ideas and a closer that drags on."

Windhand’s self-titled debut, which came out only about a year or so ago, was a positive start for the doom metal group. Their music was capsulated in darkness, with only a hazy stoner fog breaking through. Powerful and raw, Windhand was setting themselves up for an even-bigger sophomore album. They didn’t waste any time getting one out with “Soma,” an album that knocks the band down a few pegs. Though not much of a progression from their first album, a few unfortunate songwriting choices hurt the album’s value.

Not much has changed concerning Windhand’s sound. The riffs still move numbingly slow, not deviating much from a stomping mid-tempo. Solos screech to life to add some flavor, and vocalist Dorthia Cottrell is still lost in the thick of the dual guitars and fuzzy rhythm section. She does get some breathing room with her voice on the effective “Evergreen,” which is just her with an acoustic guitar for almost seven minutes. It’s a stripped-down tune that puts the band in a different light, and that’s a beneficial thing for sure.

The acoustic guitar used on this song and on “Boleskine” is the major inclusion to Windhand’s formula. Their self-titled record had a tendency to get lost in the muck of its own Electric Wizard-inspired frenzy. Having melodic moments scattered throughout “Soma” is the biggest leap the band makes. Not only is “Evergreen” surprising to come across, but it breaks up what transitions into the eventual collapse “Soma” gets stuck in.

“Soma” begins to fly off the path with the last two tracks. “Cassock” is a welcomed shock of heaviness after the subdued “Evergreen,” though it goes on for almost 14 minutes. Slick drumming in the final minutes give the song enough reason to stretch out that long. A song that doesn’t match up in the same regards is the closer “Boleskine,” which somehow goes over 30 minutes. Starting out with a stripped-down acoustic guitar, the song picks up three minutes in and fails to do anything interesting after that.

Windhand could have elevated their status with “Soma,” but instead flounder with half-baked ideas and a closer that drags on. There was no need for “Soma” to be 75 minutes, and most of that has to do with “Boleskine.” Take that track out, and the album becomes much more digestible, though it still doesn’t match the potential their first album possessed. Windhand fans should find a few favorite tracks, but the album as a whole doesn’t live up to what they delivered in 2012.

Highs: Nice change of pace with an acoustic-led track, band's stoner/doom metal sound still has weight to it

Lows: Closing track goes about 20 minutes too long, vocals buried in the mix yet again

Bottom line: Windhand's second record is a solid doom metal experience, though it's not as strong as their self-titled effort.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)