With their highly anticipated second full-length Richmond, Virginia’s Windhand hold fast to the formula firmly established on their ‘Practice Space Demo’ and their self-titled debut, and continue their mission to envelop the listener in an impenetrable wall of distortion thus potentiating narcotic and psychotropic effects. Like its predecessors, ‘Soma’ roars with an earth-churning rumble of seismic proportions that is only partially kept in check by the percussive timing of Ryan Wolfe, Dorthia Cottrell’s wails from within the maelstrom, and occasional fluidic blasts of lead guitar. For the band’s first outing for Relapse Records they stick close to what they know and have released a worthy, if not similar album to their self-titled debut.
With only six tracks and a runtime of well over an hour ‘Soma’ is irrefutably a monster of an album. And while no track quite reaches the heights of self-titled album closer “Winter Sun” the band still manages to craft individual and unique tunes that undulate and writhe with an insufferable heaviness all their own. Though there are similarities to the band’s earlier work, particularly in heft and tone, it would be a mistake to simply label ‘Soma’ as “‘Windhand II’”.
The band has taken a few detours and branched out enough to keep things both vital and interesting. The fourth track, “Evergreen”, is a somber, acoustic number that puts the spotlight completely on Cottrell who also plays guitar on this track. Though “Evergreen” is stylistically out place, it fits right in contextually and offers a brief respite before “Cassock” lays waste to everything in its path. Like a giant trudging its way across the earth, “Cassock” hasn’t a care for who it crushes underfoot by featuring the band’s heaviest, most sinister low-end riffs. The album closes with “Boleskine”, an epic, mesmerizing track that accounts for nearly half of the album’s runtime.
Windhand have ultimately crafted an album on par with their excellent debut, though ‘Soma’ is colder, darker, and heavier. Fans of their earlier work will undoubtedly gravitate toward their newest release and for good reason—tidal waves of distortion, feedback harmonizing, acoustic guitars, and Cottrell’s vocals. ‘Soma’ is uncompromisingly heavy and Windhand have further developed their unique style of doom, albeit incrementally.
Words: Steve Miller