Released: 2015, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Windhand’s 2012 debut was the kind of stumbled upon treasure that comes along all too infrequently, matching the sonic weight and snail’s pace of modern doom with a dreamlike airiness that gave it a fresh perspective. With little in the way of promotion behind the album, the band’s stature grew quickly based almost entirely on positive word of mouth. SOMA upped the stakes with tighter songwriting and consistent energy - like the band had something to prove. I still spin that album regularly; tracks like “Orchard” and “Feral Bones” hold up resiliently well. Follow that up with some festival appearances and even greater mainstream exposure and you’d think that Windhand’s next full length would be poised to conquer the world of heavy music. So why the hell does GRIEF’S INTERNAL FLOWER sound so completely bored with itself?
To a large extent, GRIEF’S INTERNAL FLOWER comes across like an attempt at creating SOMA v2.0. The format and pacing of the tunes all tend to echo the success of that album, but they don’t come across with nearly the same degree of conviction or feeling. “Two Urns” is a dreary opener that sways with a simple drawn out riff, a la “Orchard.” “Sparrow” is the token acoustic interlude much in the same vein as “Evergreen”, while “Hesperus” and “Kingfisher” are both 14-minute drone-a-thons, but have none of the bite of “Cassock” or “Boleskine”. It sounds like another band trying to cop the Windhand style, except that other band is the actual band. Perplexing, indeed.
“Crypt Key” is a welcomed moment of inspiration; with its almost upbeat plod and hopeful chorus atop the low rattled guitar fuzz, it’s a track that’s as good as any of the band’s finer moments and only makes you question your faith in GRIEF’S INTERNAL FLOWER even more as that realization sinks in. “Tanngrisnir” is another standout, with its dark vocal harmonies and evil undertones; it gets under your skin pretty quickly in the best kind of way.
I wanted so much more out of this album; Windhand is that good of a band. It’s easy to speculate that it’s the typical “too much success too soon, band loses direction, makes eventual spectacular comeback, blah blah blah” kind of rock n’ roll scenario, but regardless of the cause, it’s disappointing none the less. Their 2012 s/t debut and SOMA are exceptional records, and if you’re not already familiar with Windhand, those albums come highly recommended. GRIEF’S INTERNAL FLOWER, however, is a bloom that has wilted prematurely.