Windhand has consistently been one of my favourite doom bands of the past few years. They’ve shown that “female-fronted doom” isn’t limited to cloaks, capes and songs about Satan while cranking out a string of pretty solid records. But when I heard the initial press describing Eternal Return as a “doom/grunge” album, namedropping the likes of Soundgarden and Veruca Salt, I had reason for concern. And leadoff single “Grey Garden” didn’t really grab me—the riffs were buried in the mix. So this all left me wondering if we had another Royal Thunder situation on our hands…
At least this record is still pretty heavy. “Halcyon” kicks things off with 8+ minutes of the kind of fuzz-laden, head-nodding riffs that Windhand fans have grown accustomed to, while still maintaining some pleasant melodies. Yes, the vocals are a little higher on this one, although that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And I definitely dig the slow-mo instro breakdown that kicks in somewhere shy of six minutes. But I’ll be damned if I don’t hear some of those grunge influences that they were referring to in the media kit…
“Grey Garden” comes next, a song I was decidedly nonplussed about upon first listen. The main riff has enough of a fuzzy kick to it, but it’s a bit bland and repetitive, not heavy enough to get this here head nodding. And the melodic chorus gives me a case of Royal Thunder reflux. After a languid, three-minute Americana interlude (“Pilgrim’s Rest”) – which I actually quite like – they bring back another extended offering with “First to Die,” a fuzz-laden number that wouldn’t sound too outta place on their previous efforts, although I think it has a slightly softer sheen. The soaring chorus works really well on this one, but halfway through the tracklisting, I’m still lukewarm.
After a spacey instrumental interlude (“Light Into Dark”), we get something that might not have sounded out of place on the radio in 1997. “Red Cloud” clocks in at a compact 4:15, and there are definite shades of Soundgarden and maybe even Alice in Chains here. Not a bad thing… but not what I was expecting. Come to think of it, that would probably sum up the album as a whole. While every other Windhand record I’ve heard was an 8+ in my books, this one’s no better than a 7.
The good news is that there’s a return to vintage Windhand toward the end in the form of 11-minute epic “Eyeshine.” Put this one on your Spotify playlist…and maybe add 13-and-a-half-minute album closer “Feather” while you’re at it.
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