Monday, April 22, 2013


Reflections of the Negative features two colossal doom bands from Richmond, VA, both on Relapse Records. I just listened to this split album a couple times on repeat and I’m pretty sure the music impregnated me and a baby demon is now forming in some egg of sulphur in my tummy. Not gonna be fun shitting that out, but this split was totally worth the future discomfort.

The opening of Cough’s 18 minute track, “Athame,” sounds eerily similar to the music created by the coven of black-toothed witches in The Lord of Salem, a film I found tedious and completely uninspiring. This song, which plods defiantly into oblivion for nine minutes before switching gears into an even more unpleasant circle of hell, features more suspense and chills then that film mustered in 101 minutes. The connection to witchcraft isn’t just a convenient bridge into mentioning my recent film reviews either, as an “athame” is a ceremonial dagger used in many neopagan witchcraft traditions. Like the dagger, the percussion cuts through the suffocating fog of black smoke just enough for Parker Chandler’s strangled vocals to sneak through the forest of briars. Halfway through the song, when the lyrics announce “the time has come for sacrifice,” you can picture a procession of hooded figures lead by a single dying lantern flame to a black altar crafted from burnt bones and warped wood. The droning chant, soaked with reverb and haunted to the core, accompanies pummeling drums that rejoin the heavy groove of the main riff leading into the thirteenth minute. It’s all entirely captivating, a testament to the power of one ungodly riff and a whole lot of phantasmal atmosphere. Try listening to this in some woodlands after dusk without something dead rising from the rotten leaves and muck.

As the album’s chaser, Windhand is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, if the medicine is actually laced with the blood of a leprous monk and poison sumac. The riffs are similarly massive and leaden, but while Cough just try to get through the woods alive, Windhand seem to have found the safest clearing and stroll there a little bit. Sure, they’re surrounded by the skeletons of ill-fated travelers, but the way the light bounces off their skulls and femurs is kinda pretty at this hour. “Shepherd’s Crook” features some soaring lead guitar and Dorthia Cottrell’s vocals wind between the pine trees to awaken some ancient evil. But of the two songs “Amaranth” leaves the largest impression in the mud, with resourceful drumming from Ryan Wolfe powering the attack. it turns out that Amaranth is a blossoming weed that has symbolized immortality reaching back to early Greek mythology. Windhand’s music is similarly everlasting, as you can find roots of this music in ancient incantations and the rawest forms of blues. Both of these bands show up at the top of their form on this split, making it essential listening for fans of doom, sludge, or extreme occult rock. When that demon egg hatches I’m gonna name it Coughand, and this album will be his lullaby.

Listen to the album over at Bandcamp and feel the black magic consume you:

And order the beautiful vinyl LP from Relapse over at:

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