The striking Arik Roper-penned artwork adorning the cover of the latest opus from Virginia’s Windhand, Grief’s Infernal Flower, makes for an interesting dichotomy between the overly vegetated cemetery it depicts and the gloomy sounds contained within the album itself. Oddly enough, however, the bright hues of blue and purple give it a darkly uplifting quality which also carries over into the music. All this is to say that Windhand have always maintained an interesting balance between the smoky sounds of stoner doom and the haunting yet accessible melodies of grunge, and with Grief’s Infernal Flower, they continue this natural marriage of the two and progress even further as the adept songwriters they are.
The faint sound of crackling flames opens “Two Urns” before the guitar duo of Garrett Morris and Asechiah Bogdan fuzzes their way in with an undeniably Windhand riff that’s thick as molasses and so smoky you can almost smell the soot. Enter the thunderous rhythm section of drummer Ryan Wolfe & bassist Parker Chandler and of course, the soulful croon of Dorthia Cottrell, and so begins a one hour and eleven minute journey through Windhand’s greatest achievement thus far. Dorthia’s voice has developed and improved drastically since their 2012 self-titled debut, and it’s in absolute top form here. As she proved so eloquently earlier this year with her solo album, she especially shines when it’s just her and an acoustic guitar, and cuts such as “Sparrow” and the heart-wrenching album closer “Aition” give her the freedom to let loose with her haunting talents as a vocalist and pull the listener even deeper in.
Enlisting the talents of legendary Seattle producer Jack Endino to lay Grief’s Infernal Flower to tape was the best possible decision Windhand could have made. The two go perfectly together like Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain, and his organic production job makes the songs sound absolutely mammoth and adds to the overall “classic” appeal of the album. In other words, it sounds like a real album, made up of real songs, played on real instruments as performed by real people. Endino perfectly captured the essence of Windhand on Grief’s Infernal Flower, and one can only hope it marks the start of a long and fruitful relationship between the two.
The pacing of this album is quite different than Windhand’s previous two albums, as is the overall feel of the album. Whereas the self-titled album and Soma featured fewer albeit longer songs, Grief’s Infernal Flower is comprised of nine songs, seven of which are shorter (in relative terms, anyways) and two nearly fifteen minute jams that are placed back to back in the track sequence. These two songs, “Hesperus” and “Kingfisher” showcase a more experimental side of Windhand than we’ve seen in the past, and could be considered the centerpieces of the album. “Hesperus” is especially different, as it builds on itself but ends rather abruptly and leads into the more spacey guitar intro to “Kingfisher.” It seems strange at first, but after multiple listens you come to expect it, and it somehow works within the context of the album.
The album closes on a more somber note with the aforementioned “Aition,” an almost lullaby-like tune propelled by Dorthia’s sincere performance. It’s apparent the band put some forethought into how they wanted the album to play out, and ending it with this song makes it feel perfectly complete. The last thing you hear Dorthia bellow is “Keep the fire alive,” and as the album replays itself, it opens once again with the crackling of a live flame. It’s moments like these that make Grief’s Infernal Flower a work of art you won’t soon forget.
Windhand’s Grief’s Eternal Flower gets…