“Yeah we can do the interview whenever you want brother,” such where the first words I ever heard from a member of Windhand, and I haven’t looked back since. I was first introduced to this group right before their split with Cough, Reflections of the Negative came out in 2013, and was excited a few months later to get to hear their second full length, Soma, which built on the ideas found in the split, rather than their previous self titled record. From the first there was a sort of haunting beauty to this bands music that made me immediately latch on. Their split with Cough and full length take the 2 and 3 spots in my top records of 2013, in other words, for me at least, Windhand is kind of a big deal.
Since October 2013 I’ve seen Windhand live and hung out with them three times. I feel like I’ve started to become friendly with the band members, but it’s rare that they really open up. As a band who tour for most of the year, they’ve started to be able to make a name for themselves in this rapidly burgeoning scene. Windhand don’t really seem to be held back by a lot of the constraints other bands have imposed upon themselves. One of the few things I’ve been able to ascertain in my talks with them is that they are willing to ride this wave of popularity as long as they can. Given that they’re playing some of the most exciting and interesting doom metal out there right now, can you really blame them? These guys are doing something good for all of us, and I for one am very thankful for it.
I think a large part of the appeal for me is the incredible sonic power of the band, both on the record and in a live context. The records, in particular Soma have a very artsy twist to them. This has tied them in with other female fronted doom groups like SubRosa and Jex Thoth, even if they are extremely different. Songs like Evergreen have an almost Hawkwind like spin, to say nothing of a track like Boleskine, the albums half hour long closing masterpiece. The droney repetitions that define a lot of these riffs have a mesmerizing effect. Meanwhile, Garret Morris’s bluesy solos raise him to the level of some sort of golden god. He roars above the music with pentatonic lines that scream of 70s heavy psych rock, the sort of thing that a lot of these Electric Wizard fanboys simply can’t get enough of.
Meanwhile, the live shows have a certain promising might behind them that can knock you on your ass if you’re not prepared. The first time I saw them, in a tiny venue in Paris I was blown away by how loud these guys could be. The music hits your bones and forces your body into a weird sort of motion, hailing the almighty glory of this band. These guys make sure the live show is a full sensory experience too, they burn incense (A trick since picked up by Inter Arma) and Dorthia Cottrell sways above the crowd like an unholy priestess. All of the doom metal frontwomen have their own unique vibe, she strikes me as some sort of ancient shaman, carrying out sacred rites onto a writhing mass of willing young men and women (And there is a surprisingly high number of women at Windhand shows) Another aspect that has always interested me with the bands live aesthetic is the headbanging of the three guys carrying guitars. Every member of Windhand has long hair, and though you may say having hair isn’t a necessary prerequisite to being metal, by god it helps. The extremely natural and empathetic headbanging of the band allows the audience to really get into it, with rabid fans singing along to every word.
In other words, Windhand tap into something a lot greater than just doom. Their sound has touches of grunge and psych rock that help make them special. Their is a glorious humanity to what these guys are doing, sure it’s eerie and strange, but the otherworldly might of tracks like Evergreen is not something you want to ignore. In fact, for me at least, it’s a large part of what makes the Windhand listening experience so enjoyable. These guys have brought forth a plethora of influences to create a monolithic sound that seems like it’s coming from a world apart. Perhaps what makes Windhand so special is that they provide an escape from the common tropes of metal, or even music as a whole, and thus drive us into a brave new world that we can explore and feel at ease in.
Yet all of this doesn’t come free. Heavy touring has certainly taken its toll on the band, and though they still reign as masters of their genre, there is a very clear sense of bitterness found in some of my talks with the group. Though they might not open up to it all of the time in interviews (Although I have managed to record a few complaints from Garret, especially in regards to staying at fans homes) the brutal truth is that touring is hard, especially for a band at this level, and finding their way through this strange and harsh world is not going to be an easy thing. In fact, some who have seen the band claim they aren’t as good live. They have developed a bit of a reputation for having ‘off nights’ and being hit or miss, certainly not something a band of their level can afford. As far as I can tell, this is a significant part of what fuels the bitterness behind some of the members.
In addition, though they may have a sound that countless punters think can provide an escape, but most people still don’t ‘get’ what Windhand is about. Perhaps its better that way, the strange, oftentimes cultish legion of fans who follow this band have a wonderful sense of unity behind them. Bearded metal bros sit side by side with slim doom chicks. We all have one thing in common though, we are slaves to the undulating waves of sound that pour out of the bands speakers. Though the outside world may look on and wonder what kind of madness has possessed us to want to listen to this ghostly act, for those in the room when the band turn it up, it only feels natural, pure doom metal redemption.
So why not leave it at that? Windhand are one of those doom acts who are simply transcendent. They come out and play the kind of music that feels good, not only to them, but also the legions of fans, all spread across the board, young and old, tattooed and squares. As my prog-obsessed roommate said upon hearing them “This isn’t metal, this is chill!” They are creating something fresh and exciting that is never going to be forgotten. As they dig in to write their third album I think that metal lovers across the globe are preparing themselves for the kind of almighty doom record that might define the scene. These guys are rising fast, and soon nothing will be able to stop them.