“Go on and do something good for me now…”
Merely to read the above line evokes Film Noir or a seedy novel. Yet, from the mouth of Dorthia Cottrell, it is a resigned, dreamy incantation to the skies. The hookline to ‘Two Urns’, the opening track from Richmond Doom quintet Windhand’s third album Grief’s Infernal Flower (Relapse), drifts across the band’s trademark fuzzing, mind-crushing furrow like a mellow breeze.
This new venture possesses even more of the languid infectiousness evident on second album Soma (Relapse Records): Garrett Morris’ and Asechiah Bogdan’s riffs deceptively fluid and versatile; Ryan Wolfe’s cascading stickwork simplistic yet mind-blowing. It could almost be anachronistic yet sounds so vital, blending elements from the edgy Indie-Folk of Kristin Hersh with the Proto-power of Sabbath and the violent boundings of Soundgarden. As the bewitching centrepiece, full of mystic escapism, it’s easy to fix on Cottrell as the figurehead: yet the trance-like delivery is merely the most noticeable element of a unit as one, fully invested in its resonant creation.
The ensuing ‘Forest Clouds’ appears indolent yet gradually gains natural emotion and shuddering power: a slow, pulsing groove, made all the more seductive by those rising, subtly roared intonations and phenomenal rolls and fills from Wolfe. Despite the overriding Occult feel, these lazy, crushing waltzes reek of the insouciant yet bilious depression of Grunge, from that occasionally zoned-out drawl to the grimy riffs and plaintive, oscillating solos. The mournful acoustics of Soma reappear also: the intro to the dropped-out, Nirvana-like fuzz of ‘Crypt Key’ paving the way for the gorgeous, tragic smokiness of ‘Sparrow’ and heartbreaking closer ‘Aition’.
Parker Chandler’s pulverising notes add weight to the calming heaviness of ‘Hyperion’ while the crawling terror of the epic ‘Hesperus’, packing a sinister punch to dwarf Electric Wizard and with some deliciously drifting harmonies, develops a nasty quality which surprisingly suits the sound. The similarly lengthy ‘Kingfisher’, meanwhile, features switching rhythms and melodies evocative of The Wounded Kings: the howling, pedal-affected solos and atmospheric ambience reflecting the Devon fivesome’s invention.
At over 70 minutes long this is a typically ambitious Windhand offering. It is also undeniably ‘them’ yet something has happened here; an unsettling event or rite of passage, propelling this captivating outfit to the stars without drastically changing their identity. In doing so it has enabled the band to create its most sombre, hypnotic, emotive and supreme piece of work.