Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The time has come for sacrifice : COUGH / WINDHAND – ‘Reflection of the Negative’

Richmond, Virginia’s brethren in doom, Cough and Windhand—two likeminded yet distinct edges of a sacrificial blade—have joined forces to release one of this year’s most anticipated splits. Both bands invoke the spirits of doom from the deepest, darkest chasms through their unique down-tuned machinations. While both bands cast spells upon the listener through their distinct, earth-quaking low end rumbles, Cough delves deeper into the grimy, ritualistic side of doom whereas Windhand relies heavily on a pulsating, narcotic groove to lull the unwitting into a stupor. The simple act of committing tracks to a release from these titans of the underground metal scene has resulted in one of the most potent doom splits to be pressed on wax.‘Reflection of the Negative’ solidifies Cough’s dominion over the realm of caustic, esoteric doom and at the same time affirms that Windhand’s excellent, self-titled debut was just an inkling of things to come.
“Athame”, the lone track contributed by Cough, begins innocuously enough with slug-like drumming before being joined by some seriously sinister sounding organ. This begins the spiraling descent into a pit of loathing and despair. “Athame” uncoils past the 18 minute mark and is easily some of the best material the band has put out. Despite the length, the track doesn’t overstay its welcome, though the listener must be prepared in full for a punishing education in the dark arts. Midway through the track the listener is rendered helpless and, in stasis, is subjected to ritual incantations, and an unholy assault of wah pedal abuse and feedback. The entire track is an unwavering battery of contempt that sways and staggers with a wounded gait.
Windhand’s first contribution to the split is “Amaranth”, a track that was first unveiled in demo form for Rue Morgue’s Hymns from the House of Horror. A culminating wave of feedback kicks off “Amaranth” before the band launches into their signature low-end groove. Dorthia Cottrell’s vocals, like on their debut, is mixed perfectly and complements the music by seemingly crying out amidst the din. “Shepherd’s Crook” is warmer, slower, has a more soulful feel compared to the first track and includes a more expressive vocal performance from Cottrell. While neither“Amaranth” or “Shepherd’s Crook” have made the progressive leap that Cough has achieved with “Athame”, they are still killer tracks that could have easily have been produced by the same sessions that birthed the band’s debut.
‘Reflection of the Negative’ is one damn fine split album and both bands, despite their own unique approaches to doom, perfectly complement each other. Cough manages to drag the listener through a foul bog of profane, ritualistic licentiousness while Windhand provides a warmer, enveloping sound due to the band’s oscillating grooves and Cottrell’s vocals. Both bands have succeeded by crafting tunes that are worthy successors to their previous releases and have definitely built up anticipation for their forthcoming full-lengths.
Words: Steve Miller

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