Spotlight: Windhand – Soma

A grimy tsunami that obscures the horizon, Windhand’s Soma hits like a force of nature; the massive guitar that crashes over every track bears the grit of soil rent asunder, while vocalist Dorthia Cottrelll’s soulful croon rings above the deluge in a desperate prayer. Feverish minutes pass in the blink of an eye, roiling and churning away beneath muddy psychedelic water and bombastic drumming. All told, the album leaves a haunting wreckage of sludge and doom metal in its wake, and even the keenest of observers will have difficulty singling out what makes Windhand such a colossal force.

windhand_-_somaSonically, Soma resembles the movement of some ponderous golem. Each riff shudders and drags under its own weight, on the backside of each beat – so much so it feels as if they only just manage to finish each new bar before the next arrives. This effect is heightened by the eerie cries of Cottrell, to the point where tracks like ‘Orchard’ seem on the verge of running off the rails entirely. Only drummer Ryan Wolfe holds the slow decay at bay and wrestles the enormity of sludge back on course. The battle adds an additional level of aggression and authenticity to Windhand’s sound, an unshakeable sense of urgency that prevents any one track from lagging into a stupor. This is only dropped for the acoustic ‘Evergreen’, and while a serviceable ballad, its overly repetitive vocal refrain proves tedious around the seven minute mark. The band’s psychedelic roots are better explored in the acoustic passages that pass through like the eye of a hurricane – brief respite before the tumult swells again.

Adding to the tempest is the howl of Cottrell, intensifying in reaction to each gust and rumble. ‘Cassock’ lets it escape in ghostly refrains (“Eight thousand years between the dusk and dawn”), while ‘Woodbine’ makes it the centerpiece, a fluctuating theme that wanders over a downright apocalyptic soundscape. In both cases, the melody established passes to soaring guitar, climbing and shrieking over the tumult before being pulled back under just as suddenly. This interplay really shines on the longer tracks, which grow steadily from a single riff into a gnarled root system of intersecting themes, snaking through the soil. In this regard, thirty minute closer ‘Boleskine’ seems tethered to the bedrock itself, twisting and turning through countless iterations to rise monolithic from the earth. Daunting size matched only by ambition, scaling this prehistoric piece yields the greatest reward yet; a sweeping view of the carnage, a final glance at Soma in its entirety.

Windhand may feel like something earthen and ancient, but underneath its raw power is subtle evolution. The hulking body of Soma is visible above ground, obvious in its sludgy density. However, just as much is brewing beneath the dirt, with catchy hooks and crafty interludes probing the cracks to find purchase. It’s organic, primal, and constantly developing, towering over any expectations of the genre and crushing convention beneath its weight. Soma isn’t like any storm you’ve seen before.

Isaac Powell
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Isaac Powell

Isaac is Editor-in-Chief of Noted, and prefers his music loud and steaks rare. Lives and writes in Nottingham, England.
Isaac Powell
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