Grief’s Infernal Flower

When Windhand’s “Soma” came out in 2013, I proclaimed it the successor to Electric Wizard’s “Dopethrone.” Little did I know that Monolord would take that throne a mere year later, but that didn’t change the fact that “Soma” was monstrously heavy, an absolute behemoth of a record. All the more curious was I, then, to see what the next album would bring.

The truth is that “Grief’s Infernal Flower” is not as heavy. But to maintain some perspective here, we’re talking about a pile of bricks falling on your head being slightly lighter than that larger pile of bricks that fell on your head previously. You might notice the difference, but the bottom line is that you still took blunt force trauma to the skull. And while “Grief’s Infernal Flower” does not produce the same earthquake-inducing frequencies, it’s no lightweight.

What saves this album—or really what elevates it—is the songwriting.“Soma” surely brought some hooks and grooves to the party, but “Grief’s Infernal Flower” unquestionably shows the band reaching greater maturity in their craft. For one thing, they double down on the standout acoustic tracks, unfurling two as opposed to the one on “Soma”: “Evergreen.” And as great as “Evergreen” is, “Sparrow” and “Aition” plumb a well of dark, soulful Americana that takes them to another level. The material is akin to what vocalist Dorthia Cottrell did on her solo album this year, at least what I’ve heard of it. “Aition” in particular is achingly beautiful, and is incredibly fitting as the album’s finale.

While I greatly enjoy these quiet tracks, “Grief’s Infernal Flower” is about far more than dynamics or variation. Even within the sprawling doom beasts that trudge across the rest of the album, there are many delights to be found. Take the main rhythm line of “Forest Clouds,” for example. It utterly rocks, in so much as Windhand ever rocks, and I never tire of hearing it. The chord arrangements make it sound fresh and inviting. “Kingfisher” is similarly appealing, but more because Dorthia’s vocals are delivered in a lilting, mesmerizing croon. So too with the chorus of “Tanngrisnir”: it can lull one into a dreamlike state.

If there’s any one track here that delivers punishment along the lines of prior material, it’s “Hesperus.” It packs a massive punch, its tempo throttling up and down, and is absolutely pulverizing when at its slowest. This song takes its time to slowly burn and burrow through your ear canals, and smothers you with its weight in the process.

Coming off of“Soma,” it is rather easy to be critical of “Grief’s Infernal Flower” at first. It doesn’t immediately move any sonic mountains or generate the shockwaves to crumble them to dust, but shows instead a band dipping into a deeper creative wellspring and coming to the surface with impressive results. If Windhand’s war hammer of doom is no longer swung with as much force, it is only because the spike on the back of it is all the more wickedly sharp.

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