Windhand - Eternal Return (Album Review)
About the band
Windhand is known as one of the top Doom Metal bands within the scene. “Sludge” also gets thrown around as a sub-genre and is used often to describe Windhand. Formed in 2009 with Morris’s explosively fuzzy guitar distortions, Candler’s dark bass work keeping right along to Wolfe’s effectively classic style of drumming, and Cottrell’s low melodic vocals sealing the deal, it’s no wonder that when Eternal Return was announced that many people were wondering how it would turn out.
The Richmond, VA natives have done quite a bit in the last 9 years with 3 previous LPs, 2 split EPs with Cough and Satan’s Satyrs, a live album, and consistently touring the world. They were even one of the headliners for Maryland’s Doom Fest 2018. Known for their Black Sabbath influenced sound, the band wanted to try something different as Morris went through not only a personal loss but the birth of his child to follow. This was a very deep thing for Morris while the album was being written this past winter. One of these changes was to emulate more of a late 80’s/early 90’s grunge sound. I’m not talking the radio friendly grunge we know so well, I’m talking early Melvins, Mudhoney, or Soundgarden. The real Seattle roots of grunge. Given the fact it’s nearly 30 years later, this type of sound can be a gamble on the overall production if not done right in today’s digital age. So let’s go into the new, long awaited Windhand album, Eternal Return.
Eternal Return is the 4th full length album by Windhand. As with previous works, they brought in producer Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden) who saw the vision the band had for this album. The band recorded the album in Seattle if that gives an idea as far as how close Windhand wanted to be to the experience of classic grunge.
With the opening sample of a sonogram audio of Morris’s child’s heartbeat and the fuzzy, old school riff in “Halcyon”, the listener knows it’s going to be a good hour ahead. When the rest of the band kicks in with Wolfe’s mid tempo, classic Sabbath-esqe drumming and Cotrell’s melodic vocals, the whole song just together perfectly as an introduction. They went for classic grunge and even if the rest of the album did not sound the same, Windhand nailed it. You could easily close your eyes and hear The Melvins, and Soundgarden.
Most of the album continues in similar fashion. Some songs being longer than others, which is Windhand’s Doom Metal trademark, the riffs are heavy and full of distortions, the vocals blend well, and the songwriting itself is very emotionally driven. The production is on point. It has a vintage sound while still keeping each instrument crystal clear. Other tracks like “Pilgrim’s Rest” and “Feather”, Windhand gives the fuzz a break with very beautiful, yet very dark guitar playing on top of Wolfe’s bluesy drum playing, Chandler’s wicked bass, and Cotrell harmonizing with lyrically deep sadness. On other tracks, like “First To Die” (one of the heaviest on the album), Chandler has a nice dirty sound in his bass that Morris compliments nicely with some hard hitting drum work from Wolfe.
This album as a whole is a great package. You can hear every ounce of effort Windhand puts into this. From songwriting to the detail of the final mix, the team of Windhand and Jack Endino have hit one out of the park with Eternal Return. They deserve every accolade they get for this album. Credit goes to Arik Roper, who has also done album artwork for Sleep and High On Fire, for the attractive artwork that really helps set the stage for the vibe of the album. It was one of the things that attracted me to this album in the first place.
In all honesty, Eternal Return, as a whole is one of the best albums I have heard this year. Definitely top 10. It has everything you could want in a Doom Metal/Grunge sounding album, especially if you like The Melvins from their earlier years (it was the most comparable sound I could think of outside Black Sabbath and maybe a little Lou Reed) while still maintaining Windhand’s own style.
Listening to this was an experience as it has been a constant for a couple days. The production is phenomenal and flawless which was very pleasurable to my nitpicky ears as this was my first time listening to Windhand. I held out on listening to their earlier work because I really wanted Eternal Return to stand out on it’s own given the hype around it and what I read on Windhand’s website in regards to the effort and the story behind it.
This album definitely seems like a pivotal release in their career given the dues they have paid and sometimes, things just come together right for an album. Eternal Return is a shining example of this and it is worth every cent you pay for it. I plan on getting this on vinyl one of these days as I’m sure hearing this on a black slug would make this album even all the more better.
Eternal Return is a Relapse Records release. You can purchase the album and other merch here. Eternal Return is also available for streaming along with Windhand’s prior releases. Check your music streaming service such as YouTube Music, Spotify or Itunes. You can find out more information about Windhand here and follow them on Twitter. See if Windhand is coming to your town as they are currently touring and are known for their captivating shows.