Windhand on death, experimentation and being a woman in heavy music
The exiled Roman poet Ovid once wrote, "Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength".
He was talking about what can happen if unchecked grief festers, takes root, spreads, and corrupts our thoughts. On Windhand’s third full-length album Grief’s Infernal Flower, they have used the idiom of doom metal to mediate on melancholia and are confronting issues surrounding death and the process of grieving. It’s as much a cathartic experience for the listener as it is for the band.
Windhand’s frontwoman Dorthia Cottrell, describes herself as having an insatiable fascination with the macabre and the decrepit. “It’s got to be dark and really heavy,” she says of her musical preferences.
It’s apparent how this fascination informs the subject material as well as the sound of the band: brooding riffs and feedback intermingle with Cottrell’s vocals in an expansive sonic void, conjuring images of a many tentacled Cthulhu or some spectral visitation from the mind of Edgar Allan Poe.
However, this preoccupation with death also reveals a sadness and vulnerability, “I’m obsessed with death,” says Cottrell. “Anybody who has ever died in my life, it’s been very hard for me to get over. I struggle with the grieving process, so a lot of my lyrics [on Grief’s Infernal Flower] are about that,” she says.
For Grief’s Infernal Flower, the band enlisted the talents of legendary producer Jack Endino who has a long association with the Sub Pop label and the grunge movement. He is most famous for his recordings of Nirvana’s Bleach andSoundgarden’s Screaming Life and has also worked with Green River, Screaming Trees, L7, The Gits and Hole.
Endino encouraged the band to experiment in the studio: “A lot of the harmonies on the record were his suggestion,” says Cottrel. “They aren’t necessarily the harmonies that I would have chosen. I think they were a little grungier, a little reminiscent of Alice In Chains, that was a cool edition to what we were already doing.”
It’s no secret that the metal scene is culturally coded as masculine, and is notoriously dominated by dudes. Indeed, metal exists in our sexist society, so it’s no surprise to find sexism there (or anywhere). Cottrell believes the misogyny she has encountered while fronting a band in a male dominated genre is typical of many women’s experiences in the industry.
“I’ve experienced what any woman playing music experiences, which is showing up to a gig and people thinking that you are the merch girl, or dating somebody in the band,” she explains with exasperation. “It sucks to say it, but it’s par for the course at this point, I hope it changes.”
The heartbeat of the metal community is live performance and Windhand approach their shows with a fervour that borders on the ritualistic. “We go into this meditative zone where we latch onto a riff,” says Cottrell. “We play it over and over again, we’re all just spacing out while it morphs and becomes its own beast.”
Windhand have an intense tour schedule lined up for Australia and New Zealand. “We only get one day off so we’d like to get back to a little Koala sanctuary that we visited last time,” says Cottrell.
They’ll be joined on the road by doom/sludge metal band Cough, a group Windhand have been fans of for some time. “We’ve know those guys for about ten years,” Cottrell says. “We share some members with the band too. We’re all excited to be touring together. To be honest I can’t believe it’s taken this long.”
By George Hyde