Windhand – Eternal Return

Much of personal significance has happened to the members of Virginia Doom troupe Windhand since third album Grief’s Infernal Flower (Relapse) dropped in 2015: the resignation of co-founder and guitarist Asechiah Bogdan, after which the band has remained a quartet; the death of a friend close to the band; and the birth of guitarist Garrett Morris’ child. Given the joy and despair surrounding such events, it’s understandable the new full-length Eternal Return (Relapse) is a different beast from the droning sound usually expected. Continue reading

Cough – Still They Pray

Cough - Still They Pray album cover ghostcultmag

Still They Pray (Relapse Records) is the first long-player in six years from legendary Virginian Doom quartet Cough, with a couple of later ‘splits’ the only things preventing their status from slipping into the mythical. Thankfully this time lapse hasn’t seen the band’s power or collective ability diminish.

Album opener ‘Haunter of the Dark’ exudes the heavy, Occult feel of their one-time ‘split’ mates The Wounded Kings: riffs and leadplay evoking the bone-crumbling mysticism of George Birch and Steve Mills. This is allied to the fuzzed sound and laconic, harrowing vocal of Electric Wizard, which is apt given that Jus Osborn handles production here. Follow-up ‘Possession’, however, and wonderful album highlight ‘The Wounding Hours’ with its haunting keys, both take on a new resonance: obsidian screams leading a slower trawl through infested swamps, resulting in the more familiar funereal pace. The standout feature here and in the crawling, sinister warmth of ‘Dead Among the Roses’ is some mournful, stirring leadwork, squealing and moaning through an oppressive riff and pummeling rhythm section like a speared anaconda.

This is, of course, the mark of this lumbering leviathan: it’s a sound you’ve heard before but, as with TWK, Cough adds a variety and subtlety which supposedly more influential contemporaries seem loath to display. The sheer evil of ‘Masters of Torture’s Blackened Sludge vocal heightens both the intensity and the omen: while wailing solos add morose emotion to a creeping, hideous body, suddenly enlivened by a rumbling, Dorrian-esque groove. The beautiful, leaden balladry of ‘Let it Bleed’, meanwhile, is graced by a Hippy drawl which still manages to carry a certain malevolence; as does the monstrous instrumental ‘Shadow of the Torturer’, Parker Chandler’s basslines plumbing the Pacific depths whilst seedy, seductive leads screech and oscillate, easing Joseph Arcaro’s lazy yet powerful drums to a crushing main section.

It’s a sound undeniably British, whilst reminiscent of Chandler’s work with Windhand and, as evinced in the acoustic-led closing title track, a late 60s Haight-Ashbury Americana. With such obliterating Doom spirited by the fire, despair and hate of the 21st century, Cough has never sounded so vital.

8.0/10.0

PAUL QUINN

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Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower

windhand

“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.

 

8.5/10

 

PAUL QUINN