Few things have such primal appeal as the perfect guitar fuzz tone. Fire, space, and growling muscle cars all mesmerize in the same supernatural way as the pummelling wall of ferocious, dripping, relentless fuzz that Windhand unleash on their album Grief’s Eternal Flower. It’s one hell of a third record from a band in their seventh year of life, and one hell of a high mark for doom metal.
Windhand’s two previous records, Windhand and Soma, have set the stage for the band’s most cohesive release yet, even though this offering treads the same water. The principles: combine the sludgiest instruments, the tightest drumming, and the most ethereal vocals, and give all of them plenty of air to breathe. In theory, it’s a simple recipe for songs with no soul, but in practice singer Dorthia Cottrell brings a heart to each tune that can only be described as cathartic. Regardless of how punishing every track may be, it’s Cottrell’s inspiring—and not downtrodden—lyrics and delivery that lift Grief’s Eternal Flower.
Produced by Jack Endino (responsible for Nirvana’s Bleach), the album starts just as it should: with a fire crackling static and the faintest possible crickets chirping, before “Two Urns”’ signature riff thunders into existence. It’s no kind introduction for newcomers—Eternal Flower starts with a kick and a roar that deserves speakers turned up too loud and headphones pressed too tight. Even when Cottrell’s harmonized crooning—singing pop lyrics hidden behind mountains of distortion—balances out the grungy instrumentals, only one of the songs (“Sparrow”) backs down to give the listener a break.
“Sparrow” itself is a boring acoustic tune that practically throws the band’s musicianship to the wind, content to play the quiet card with a single guitar accompanying Cottrell’s vocal flourishes. The brief spotlight that “Sparrow” acts out, focused on Cottrell and her obvious singing ability, might have been more warranted if it weren’t for a mix that strongly favours her voice over the louder instruments in the band. It’s a move straight out of pop record tropes, and one that ultimately serves only as an uncomfortable reminder that Grief’s Eternal Flower is a metal record with non-metal purists in mind.
The best part of the record is hidden in two of its last songs—“Hesperus” and “Kingfisher”—which explore the band’s psych and experimental tendencies over the course of some 28 minutes. They’re long, sprawling set-pieces that explore as much with sound as they do with progression. With each track clocking in at over 14 minutes apiece, there’s more than enough room for Windhand to do what they do best: “Hesperus” particularly lets each instrument flourish on its own, with prehistorically glacial pacing on guitars and drums providing the perfect template for Cottrell to really dig into her words. Grief’s Eternal Flower is a numbing experience, and a fantastic step for the Virginia band.
Review by Fraser Dobbs