With a fair degree of accuracy, we can pinpoint the exact moment the Windhand ‘s “Soma” dug its considerable claws into our corroded consciousness, thereby revealing itself less as a traditional album and more as untraditional alchemy.
And it didn’t take long. On opening track “Orchard,” the initial sound is that of whoever previously held the title for “World Heavyweight Championship of Downtuned Destruction” being defeated in just seconds, courtesy of a patient, piledriving riff. The drums and bass join in about thirty seconds later, thundering and threatening enough for the listener to consider plans for the afterlife, immediately followed by the vocals – deep in the mix, pulled perhaps from deep within a troubled soul, coursing through Windhand’s mesmerizing mountain of sound with the force of a river, a river possessed with the subtle strength to eventually erode a mountain, unhurried, un-humbled in the shadow of the mountain’s height.
“I’m having trouble with the downside,” is what we hear those vocals say about one minute and forty-five seconds in the unfolding of “Orchard,” and it’s at that very point that the alchemical power of “Soma” revealed itself to us. It doesn’t even matter if those are the words being sung – that’s certainly the sentiment that’s being sung. And “Soma” is the absolutely perfect sonic scenario served for the expression of having trouble with the downside.
One-minute and forty-five seconds is not a long time. It’s not enough time to realize that “Soma” carries the additional weight of trance-inducing songs – as in catchy, memorable, hooks with choruses you can embarrassingly attempt to sing along with as you drive at night toward an early autumn moon (maybe that’s just us). It’s not enough time to realize the album also positively pulses with – no two-ways about it – shit-hot guitar playing, lead runs with sinister sustain, vibrant and incendiary enough to make a statue bend its back in air-guitar aspiration.
In Windhand-land, one-minute and forty-five seconds is nothing more than the blink of an eye – “Soma” itself closes with the thirty-and-one-half minutes of “Boleskin,” an accomplishment that defies our powers of explanation. In fact, in WIndhand-land, time may be a dead concept entirely … and if it’s not, the band seems intent on slowly snuffing out its flame.
For “Soma” is that rare, truly timeless album – an album that comes alive in each moment, the independent attributes of the guitars, the bass, the drums and the vocals all being simultaneously dependent on the existence of the other; mountain and river become one.
“You should know that even though all things are liberated and not tied to anything, they abide in their own phenomenal expression. However, when most human beings see water they only see that it flows unceasingly. This is a limited human view; there are actually many kinds of flowing. Water flows on the earth, in the sky, upward, and downward. It can flow around a single curve or into bottomless abysses. When it rises it becomes clouds. When it descends it forms abysses.” – Dōgen Zenji