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Windhand - "Windhand" (CD)

Windhand - "Windhand" CD cover image

"Windhand" track listing:

1. Black Candles (6:08)
2. Libusen (8:19)
3. Heap Wolves (5:04)
4. Summon The Moon (10:44)
5. Winter Sun (11:50)

Reviewed by on April 25, 2012

"This album is clear in its intention to be the heaviest bout of doom to grace one’s eardrums in some time. It’s sluggish, brute in force, and not meant for a pleasant sunny day."

A lone stranger wanders through a forest late at night, his footsteps and various animal noises the only sounds heard. The full moon is the source of light, though it’s starting to dim as clouds roll in. A clap of thunder rings out in the sky, indicating a storm is on its way. He has no idea where he is, moving forward into the thick brush of trees, trying to find shelter before the rain engulfs him.

As he gets to a clearing in the path, he sees black candles dimly lit in a circle. It seems to be a ritual of some sorts; possibly an offering to a dark spiritual presence. His morbid curiosity gets the better of him. He walks closer to the circle, with not a soul in plain sight. As he gets within a few feet of the circle, a row of cloaked figures surround him. Before he can utter a scream, a fuzzy guitar riff tears us from the scene to welcome us to Windhand’s self-titled album.

This hazy debut of stoner doom is like an Electric Wizard album being recorded in a cabin deep in the woods, isolated from society. The guitars ring out in abundant feedback and distortion, moving at the speed of a Los Angeles traffic jam. The screeching solos offer some variation, though they are seeped in as much static as the rest of the riffs. For the right audience, it’s an entrancing listen; for those who are not privy to the ways of stoner doom, this will not be an enjoyable experience on the ears.

Like any well-placed stoner doom metal album, there is a glimpse of visions and imagery that can only come from the toking of a certain illicit substance. Songs like “Libusen” are washed in rain-drenched saturation, where the sound of water on the roof is the most creepy thing in the world. Vocalist Dorthia Cottrell has a lingering wail that seems to reverb with every phrase sung. For the most part, it’s a clean style, though some vicious growls are entrenched by echoing guitars at the end of “Winter Sun.”

The dual ten-minute monsters are where Windhand achieves their stride. Both are simple in design, especially the first minute or two of “Summon The Moon” with its repetitive bass and drum beats, but the tense emotions serve to give the song an air of supremacy. There is nothing clean or sterile about these songs, or this album as a whole. The five songs are just so entrenched in their own darkness that it’s very hard to find any room away from the saturated muck the five musicians navigate their way through.

That stranger met his fate in the worst way possible, but the listener who was an observer to this madness will not meet the same outcome. This album is clear in its intention to be the heaviest bout of doom to grace one’s eardrums in some time. It’s sluggish, brute in force, and not meant for a pleasant sunny day. Windhand rouses up the kind of stark, ritualistic aura that any serious doom metal band should project.

Highs: Stoner doom that is eerie and full of atmosphere, plenty of distortion and noisy static to set a dark mood, "Summon The Moon" and "Winter Sun" are haunting epics

Lows: Vocals tend to be buried in the mix, last few songs top the ones before them

Bottom line: Solid in execution, and setting the right amount of bleak atmosphere, Windhand's debut album will appeal to those who praise bands like Electric Wizard.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)