Virginia isn’t quite the secret it used to be. The state that begat staples like GWAR and Alabama Thunderpussy has shouldered its way into the greater metal collective with nothing short of a rouse this side of the 21st century. Landmark records from Pig Destroyer, Lamb of God, Inter Arma, Municipal Waste, Cough, and Iron Reagan demonstrate not only the diversity of quality heavy available from this area, but also the consistency. It’s basically a guarantee that something kickass will come from the commonwealth on an almost annual basis, an impressive feat for a small corner of the world. So yeah, this place is fucking dense with some brilliant metallic minds. That being said, the latest split from Richmond’s Windhand and Herndon’s Satan’s Satyrs reinforces the notion that this state and our ears are in good hands (of doom).
It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from Windhand, a band that crested the wave of doom’s mid-2000s resurgence begun by fellow southerners Pallbearer, Kylesa, and Rwake. Although the band formed in 2008, it wasn’t until 2015’s Grief’s Infernal Flower that the band catapulted to the top of metal consciousness with their honed, sludge-tinged psychedelic doom sound, all led by vocalist Dorthia Cottrell’s commanding, wailing vocals performances. Hopefully we’ll get a more substantial offering from the band in 2018, but, until then, the two tracks the band delivers on the split perfectly represent the duality of what Windhand brings to the doom table.
Speaker-violating distortion immediately greets listeners from the opening moments of “Old Evil,” a bluesy, headbanging riff rider that invokes the swagger of modern Electric Wizard maybe even better than the wizards themselves. I had to double check to make sure that the band didn’t bring in a guest vocalist as Cottrell’s vocals are constrained to a lower register than usual, but the airy, pleading delivery remains the same. “Old Evil” is a banger, pure and simple: a brawny, straight-forward piece of traditional, riff worshiping doom with a killer solo embedded within and a washed-out, hallucinatory video to help wash it all down. Play it loud, play it often.
“Three Sisters” slows things down considerably and, instead of banging heads, the colossal slabs of guitar and massive rhythm section crash wave upon thudding wave of downtempo doom upon listeners’ skulls. Cottrell is back in more traditional form and her lilting, almost playfully seductive vocals weave in and out of the surge and swell of the track. There’s a near call and response quality of the song’s verses and “hook,” the verses being sparse and airily atmospheric before colliding headlong into an impenetrable wall of distortion, thunderous drums, and squealing organ that populate the refrain. “Three Sisters” and “Old Evil” offer fairly different but equally exciting glimpses into the power that is Windhand and, if these two tracks are any indication, we should all be excited for their next full length in the (hopefully) near future.
Not only is the pairing on a split release important, but sequencing plays a crucial role in making the most out of its limited runtime. This split nails it on both accounts. Satan’s Satyrs’ brand of heavy rock ‘n’ roll is a wonderful change of pace from Windhand’s careful and calculated blows. Right off the bat, “Alucard AD 2018” explodes with a shifty, buzzy rock riff and bassist Clayton Burgess’ signature wails. Their busy guitar work lends a frenetic energy, and coupled with some enthusiastic drumming (so many rad little fills snuck in there), it’s attention-grabbing and invigorating, highlighting the band’s heady, occulty, and.. dare I say fun? vibe.
“Succubus” plays like The Stooges trying their hand at an uptempo Black Sabbath number. Replete with all of the seedy darkness and sinister bounce, the track gets at the core of what the band does best: busting out nasty, gritty, lo-fi evil that’s either pure retro nightmare fuel or the anthem to your next basement sacrifice (you make the call). The fuzzy guitar work captures some of that Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats grainy, horror flick texture, but the wily leads and and possessed pace keep things fresh. It’s more of a haunt than anything else on this side, but the energy level is still relatively high for the split as a whole, showcasing their punky, borderline garage rock rawness.
Rounding out this sub-12-minute side is “Ain’t That Lovin You, Baby,” an Elvis Presley rendition that gets the most out of their trebly approach, perverting the bluesy classic before speeding things up into a fever clip. It’s the perfect kind of feature for a split, giving fans of the band a fun treat, and new ears some insight into into their delightfully demented psyche. These sides work super well in tandem, shifting gears frequently enough that you can tirelessly replay it without fatigue. Not only is this a cool pairing of hazy Virginia fuzz, both bands take the opportunity to hone their chops and take a step outside of their comfort zone. So whether or not your familiar with either, neither, or both of these acts, this split is well-worth the 30-minute investment.
Grab this split on February 16 from Relapse Records, or forever hold your peace.