Richmond, Virginia may be a city better known for its blues, country, and bluegrass music and the Richmond Folk Festival than for heavy metal, but if you delve into the murky underground scene, you will realise that it is home to some incredible bands, including occult misery veterans Cough who need no introduction, suffice to say that they have been peddling their own unique strain of despairing, cacophonous sludge and doom since 2005. The remote scene that spawned Cough also gave birth to doom upstarts Windhand whose practice room demo, and last year’s debut album, have made them ones-to-watch in the US metal underground. The ties between the two bands (which now includes sharing a bass-player in Chandler Parker) come to the fore on this split release put out by Relapse Records which is comprised of two new Windhand cuts and one mini-epic from Cough.
Cough‘s contribution, “Athame”, is a nasty, spiteful occult anthem of grief, despair, and “ritual suicide”, shaking its tar-blackened death rattle slowly across your ear for 19 minutes. Languishing at a pace like the drip of Chinese water torture, Cough envelope you under their cloak and the darkness doesn’t let up as vast, dark waves of guitars, seismic drums and Parker’s gut-wrenching vocals entrance you into a depressive stupor.
Comparatively Windhand are, no pun intended, a breath of fresh air, if for no reason other than Dorthia Cottrell’s lofty – dare-I-say, uplifting – vocals. “Amaranth” gets to work immediately and is instantly more uproarious than any moment on Side A, the main riffs propelled with more energy making it clear that Windhand’s aim is slightly more skyward-facing than Cough’s introspective, consuming approach. “Shepherd’s Crook” almost feels like a slowed-down and stretched-out take on “Amaranth” but this allows Cottrell to lay more of the infectious vocal hooks that made their last EP so enjoyable on us. As ever with Windhand, it’s the authenticity and style with which they deliver their music as opposed to any large sense of originality that will appeal to the out-in-the-open or closeted Sabbath fans out there but Windhand are instantly recognisable and always thoroughly enjoyable.
All this leads one to wonder if this is the year of split releases? With a handful of excellent splits already under 2013’s metaphorical belt and at least a few more due before year end, ‘Reflection Of The Negative’ is as good an argument for the vitality of the format as any, presenting two geographically remote bands who both have differing and kick-arse interpretations of doom. Whether this split is intended as a taster for future releases for both bands on Relapse Records or not, it’s clear that the future is looking good for Cough and Windhand.
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin