It’s rather strange to attend a metal concert virtually. The deafening sound, headbanging and constant crowd-surfing are replaced by computer audio and whatever antics you can manage to pull off from the comfort of your home. But that didn’t stop doom metal band Windhand from taking a minimalist approach to the live aspects of the genre, focusing solely on the dark environment its music builds for fans instead of all the quirks of an actual show. The band took part in Levitation’s livestream sessions Saturday, bringing a sludgy and seriously heavy sonic experience to those at home.
The band appeared in a small, dimly lit room that looked like a shipping container, a fittingly desolate choice for the ceaselessly heavy sound it would soon begin oozing out. The familiar crunch and drone of the bass were permeating, only broken up by the slow, rhythmic drumming that kicked off “Old Evil.” The song was a jack of all trades, featuring not only a chugging riff but also a reverbed guitar solo and dreamy yet commanding vocals on the part of lead singer Dorthia Cottrell. But this song wasn’t the only one to encompass otherworldly, genre-bending aspects while remaining essentially doom metal. Windhand quickly established that it would be adhering to this formula for the rest of the show.
After the seven-minute introduction, which was comparatively short to the rest of the set, the band launched into “Diablerie.” Cottrell’s smooth vocals proved again to be a strength in Windhand’s live performances, impressively standing up to the monstrous guitars while fitting in with them seamlessly. “Hope it don’t come back,” she sang with an ominous echo.
Many of the songs began with a jolting intro, such as the sudden drum fill on “First to Die” or the guitar work reverbed straight to the underworld on “Forest Clouds.” But then Windhand settled into a thick, heavy groove, a key aspect of doom metal that Windhand has clearly mastered. “Forest Clouds,” in particular, was a highlight of the show. The staggered layers and tempos of the song each came into play as the minutes slowly passed, accented by the soulful vocal delivery. Despite being a nine-minute performance, it was over much too soon.
The atmospheric sound echoed around the tiny room. The low strumming of the bass on “Three Sisters” vibrated the brain directly before the dissonant cacophony of the rest of the song came into play. It’s this buildup of sound that Windhand executes so expertly, making for not just a droning quality but also a melodic, rich and even dynamic one within a repeated rhythm.
For the last 12 minutes, Windhand performed “Cassock,” each beat like a hit right on the eardrum itself and the vocals like a breeze. As the final notes faded, a deafening roar filled the void left behind by the music, a somber reminder of the storm of a performance that had just passed.
From the spooky but enchanting psychedelic projections on-screen to Cottrell casually rocking a Chicago Bulls jersey, Windhand’s performance was simple, casual and fully engulfing. The band only played eight songs for the entire set, but each was a solid nine to 10-minute wall of sound that truly took the audience on a journey. The band captured the physically moving sound of doom metal with precision, playing its music with no frills. The beauty of the performance was that absolutely no frills were even needed — no need to prance around the stage, employ pyrotechnics or display fancy backdrops often seen at live shows. Truthfully, the band didn’t even need to interact with the audience, as the music was mesmerizing enough.
Even with the loud, heavy sound, the performance was best listened to on high volume to truly feel enveloped by the music. You couldn’t help but bob your head, bewitched by the infallible rhythm. It can only be described as being serenaded to your death — not a bad way to go out with Windhand by your side.