Album: Eternal Return
Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: October 5th, 2018
Eternal Return is a doozy, a sprawling, epic, crawling mammoth of riffs, ethereal and torrid vocals, with an endlessly deep bottom end. This is the fourth album by Windhand and a record born of frustration and loss and turmoil. The remaining band members have responded with a fire that smolders at times and rages at others, but never loses focus or heat.
Known for their epic doom, for the fuzz that shakes the floor and thumps your heart, Windhand have expanded a bit on that signature noise, new producer Jack Endino tweaking their sound in small but significant ways. Dorthia Cottrell’s vocals have always been ghostly and wraithlike, working and worming through the songs, always sort of mixed in deep but never lost. Here they are more to the front, warmer somehow and yet still as cold and otherworldly as ever. Her intonations haven’t changed all that much, but you can feel more grunge in there. Everyone is talking about how this album incorporates greater grunge elements, but I don’t hear it so much in the instrumentations as in Cottrell’s vocals. The spirit of Kurt Cobain is hovering in there somewhere, haunting some of the phrases and choruses. It’s not an overwhelming thing, and I bet if Jack Endino wasn’t the producer, most people wouldn’t even notice. Still, it’s there, and it adds an interesting layer to an already well-established sound. Also of note, the guitar is a tad bit heavier than past releases, while still maintaining that fuzz. The bass is given room to support the entire structure more now that the band is down to one guitarist instead of two. And those drums…man, Ryan Wolfe just does not get enough credit for what he does with a kit. He’s an unsung hero of this group.
“Halcyon” opens the record and is as good an indication of where the album is headed as any other track. It’s heavy, it’s fuzzy, it’s melodic and moody as hell. You’ll find yourself chanting along with Cottrell on the chorus, intoning “I wish you would” over and over again. It’s on this track and follower “Grey Gardens” that the grunge influences are most evident, in my opinion. You can really hear it in these two tracks, while in later ones, it fades a bit. For my money, the best track is “First to Die,” which is just a crushingly heavy groove that pounds you slow-motion into the dirt. Heavy, heavy, heavy, it grinds the listener with its sloth-like pace. This is classic Windhand right here. The rest of the record keeps coming at you, relentless and thick, dense with power and emotional weight. There is no retreat or surrender here. It all culminates with “Feather,” where we get some (Nirvana-ish) acoustic work that slithers into a languid, shadowy drift, not getting heavy until about five minutes in. Here it becomes a monolithic slab of pure power, staggering and swaggering forward, fading and fading and fading…
Is this the best Windhand album? Maybe. I still love the first two, but this one ranks right up there with them. If you’re looking for an hour’s worth of Doom, you can do much worse than this one right here. Windhand mix their crushing grooves and their murky psychedelia into an almost perfect metal concoction. It is not a comforting listen, but it is a rewarding one.
2. Grey Garden
3. Pilgrim’s Rest
4. First to Die
5. Light into Dark
6. Red Cloud
Total Playing Time: 62:20