Windhand have gradually amassed a large following in the past few years and have become leaders in the new wave of doom metal we are experiencing. I saw them last year at the Maryland Deathfest, and they played well, though I needed another show to get a better idea of their live presence. And here we are with an American Windhand Tour, with their last stop being the closest big city I live near, Philadelphia. At Underground Arts too, the best venue in the city. Along with tourmates Danava and Monolord, I was excited for what was to come. Additionally, in lieu of a local opener, Johnny Scarps from Ruby the Hatchet was DJing in between sets, spinning stuff from Bang, Scorpions, Serpent Throne, and even early Judas Priest. Good stuff.
The Swedish power trio Monolord are part of the Sabbath-worshiping Riding Easy Records gang. They were up to bat first. I didn’t know much about the band going into the show, but listened to them a bit on the car ride to the venue. I liked what I heard and seeing them live, they were the surprise of the night. Their onslaught of relentless riffage was awesome. They had a lot of repetition within their songs, but the riffs were so catchy that it just works. Frontman Thomas Jäger‘s wailing howls sung through trippy, echo-y effects conjured the feeling of Acid King. I also really enjoyed the energy bassist Mika Häkki brought to the stage, swinging his instrument all around. Their last track, “Empress Rising”, was a clear highlight, sounding like a Godzilla slowing destroying Tokyo. Needless to say, I gotta catch up on their discography and see these guys again.
I witnessed Danava last year when they opened for Uncle Acid at this very venue. I dig their Budgie-induced early heavy metal vibe, sounding like they time warped from 1973. They played an excellent set with such liveliness, appropriately being sandwiched between two slow stoner metal bands. The riffs and melodies are simply on point. Their melodic solos are unerring too, and I’m often pretty indifferent toward soloing in general. I wish I could have heard frontman Greg Meleney better, but he gave an excellent performance regardless. I really liked numbers from Hemisphere of Shadows like “I Am the Skull”, “Shoot Straight with a Loaded Gun” and the title track. The blisteringly rapid ending of “Quiet Babies Astray in a Manger” is so cool as well. The band fittingly ended their set with “The Last Goodbye”. Danava represents retro rock at its best. I can’t wait for their next album. Check them out.
Windhand are an interesting bunch. Frontwoman Dorthia Cotrell has a voice that really encapsulates the band name. It drifts and echoes while the demolishing riffs crush your ears. The band started out with some issues in their set. Dorthia’s vocals were barely audible. She signaled to the sound guy to turn up her mic, but it didn’t do much good. Percussionist Ryan Wolfe also had a problem throughout with one of his drums not standing upright properly. He ended up kicking the thing down at the end of the show.
Their set overall was ok. A lot of Windhand’s songs sound the same. The typical stoner doom riffs play out while the vocal style stays within a set range. I epecially enjoyed the middle of “Cassock” when aforementioned issues with the drums caused a temporary stop in percussion and the string players had to compensate. Bassist Parker Chandler played the main riff of “Cassock” on his own and it sounded really fucking good. It made me realize how busy Windhand’s songs are at times. The guitar playing sounds indistinguishably too often and kind of drags. “Cassock” and their ending song, “Winter Sun”, represent the best of the band: bone-crushing doom riffs with vocal melodies to sway your body to. Their set ended with the members walking off stage and the guitar tone still droning for a good two minutes, which felt appropriate.
Before Windhand’s last song, the other bands came on stage and they all took shots to celebrate their last night of the tour. At the end of the night, I liked what I heard and saw. Monolord is now one of the bands I’m following, Danava continues to shine, and Windhand, well, they ain’t that bad.