Review Summary: More like Infernal Return
Windhand has always been a band about gradual evolution. Every album has marked its way toward a clearer sound, as the vocals have gotten more and more prominent in the mix and the guitar riffs more coherent while still retaining their dark, fuzzy character. The group’s fourth full-length Eternal Return continues this trend, and it may be their most adventurous effort to date, even if it really isn’t all that different.
Eternal Return consists almost exclusively of the usual ultra-slow fare, but the song structures play with dynamics more. Melodic contrasts are more common on tracks like “Grey Garden,” while other songs like “First to Die” and “Red Cloud” go into borderline upbeat territory thanks to their more compact riff sets and more direct vocal hooks. Even the token softer numbers shake things up, as “Pilgrim’s Rest” sees vocalist Dorthia Cottrell accompanied by the full band rather than the mere acoustic setup, while “Light into Dark” makes for a nice three-minute interlude. “Feather” also makes for a splendid closer and justifies its thirteen minutes with a creepy beginning and drawn out riff work.
But at the end of the day, Windhand’s tweaks never seem to address the factors that ultimately hold them back. Some songs may be longer or more forceful than others, but they all generally conform to similar tempos and riff patterns. It’s nice to see the album’s runtime shave off by ten minutes compared to the last two full-lengths, but there are still a couple songs that run together or are otherwise expendable. Seeing how Windhand will likely be sticking to this formula for their career’s entirety, I’d love to at least see their template come back down to a forty or fifty-minute context.
While Eternal Return offers a few tweaks and will keep their momentum going, but also reinforces the notion that some things never change. The atmosphere and performances are still excellent enough to keep the formula from getting stale, but an adherence to soundalike riffing also keeps them in seemingly perpetual “almost there” territory for yours truly. I’m not sure if I’d recommend this over Soma or Grief’s Infernal Flower for a first-time listener, especially since they all seem to be at an interchangeable quality level, but those already acquainted are sure to enjoy it.
“First to Die”
Originally published at http://indymetalvault.com