I’m sure we’ve all heard of the “sophomore slump” the music industry phenomenon where a band fails miserably to match the fervor and acclaim their debut may have garnered. Well, Richmond’s Windhand have taken that notion of failing, laced it with a thick, gooey shell of hashish and firmly planted it in their favorite bong, lit that bitch up and exhaled one hell of an album in Soma. Carrying on from where they left off with their self-titled debut, as well as their split with fellow Virginians Cough, these merchants of doom deliver crawling riffage, deep layers of atmosphere and more than enough slow-burning groove to fill the next 75 minutes with steady head-banging enjoyment.
Soma starts off with some seriously heavy, monolithic riffs in a similar vein to older Electric Wizard as reverb drenches the building drums until all combine for a rumbling, steady march of doom. Dorthia Cottrell’s vocals, just as on previous releases, is ethereal as it weaves amongst the dense and layered guitars. Her voice brings a tinge of psychedelic atmosphere to this party. Deep, layered and soulful, the music in “Orchard” pulls you into the depths of the reefer-induced haze. The song, however, isn’t all crawl and no go as it does pick up with a great lead three or so minutes in. It’s impressive that the band or producer or both have managed to keep these massive riffs clear and discernable while at the same time soaking them with plenty of fuzzy texture.
“Woodbine” starts off with a crushing wall of riffage that carries a familiarity to it. Cottrell doesn’t wait too long to join in as her soulful delivery matches the ebb and flow of the guitars and thundering drum work. The song certainly has some groove to it despite it’s plodding march through the air. Another stellar and teleporting lead arrives about half way through this nine and a half minute long epic ride. “Feral Bones” slows things down tremendously while also emptying dump truck loads of reverb and distortion upon an already heavy sound with opening riffage that is as feral as it is weighty.
Windhand throw everyone for a loop in opting to abandon electricity for this acoustic-guitar driven “Evergreen.” It may not bring the heavy, but it allows Cottrell’s voice to lead the way for once as she commands your attention with her softly song vocals. The guitar in this case is only there to support her and not dominate as it does on every other song. This is a standout track and not just for it’s lack of buzzing riffage it’s soulful and emotional. “Cassock” plugs back in with a sound that leans heavily on drone and a much darker, malevolent vibe. It’s a decent enough song, but the four that preceded it are much better.
The thirty minute (yes, 30 minute) long closer, “Boleskin,” is a challenge to get through at times as it can become pretty monotonous and repetitive. When the mood hits, however, you can throw this song on and just sit back for a while and not have to do a damn thing. Soma is well written, performed and echoes the band’s previous efforts without rehashing a thing. The guitars are just as massively heavy and full of distortion and Cottrell’s performance again steals the show. This album isn’t for everyone, but fans of doom and perhaps some drone will get lost in it’s murky depths.