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Windham Hell - South Facing Epitaph CD (album) cover

SOUTH FACING EPITAPH

Windham Hell

 

Experimental/Post Metal

2.18 | 3 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
2 stars 'South Facing Epitaph' - Windham Hell (4/10)

Windham Hell is an archetypal underground band, even many metalheads already leaning towards avant-garde approaches know next to nothing about them, and yet they are considered legendary by their sparse fans. This was originally a one man act of neoclassical guitarist Leland Windham's, but fellow multi-instrumentalist Eric Friesen also joins him on this debut, and the two would have a productive partnership for the better part of a decade. 'South Facing Epitaph' is one album that polarizes what few listeners it receives, with some lauding it for its experimental zest, and others seeing it as a brutally incoherent mess. Most often when it comes to albums like these, I am able to see the merits of both arguments, although in the case of Windham Hell's debut, I might say that this album is a little too rough, and far too aimless to be the classic that fans make it out to be.

Call it avant-metal, or neoclassical, or anything, Windham Hell has an interesting style to them, although it lacks the direction that would give a lasting impression on me. It is clear that Windham Hell are a band that aren't playing for anyone but themselves, and the meandering, at times challenging nature of the music reflects that; a flurry of neoclassical shred sections contrasted with sections of dark ambiance and excerpts from cult horror films. There are a few sparse sections where the band uses death growls or muffled clean vocals, but for the most part, this is an instrumental band, and that is probably for the best. Windham Hell isn't a band about melody or things sounding pretty. It is a fairly rough recording that promises some very interesting experimental art, but it does come out a bit short. What metal sounds that are here are feel dispassionate and cold, the shredding passes me as a slightly sloppier Yngwie Malmsteen, and the compositions feel like sketches, rather than completed pieces.

The neoclassical, or metal elements of Windham Hell really do little here, the heavier riffs are very basic and are given a very barebones feel to them, and while I'll say that its clear the both Windham and Friesen are good guitarists, their neoclassical shreds are something that has been done in the past, much, much better. The most interesting thing here are the ambient angles, especially when dialogue is used. Hearing garbled dialogue from the cult horror film Jacob's Ladder, with a disembodied voice telling someone that he is dead and in hell is pretty chilling, and the way that the band works in into the music is a little unpolished, but effective.

Windham Hell's debut is like a vast buffet of stale food; there's plenty of stuff to experience and try out, but the experience as a whole is none too impressive. There is reason for Windham to be acclaimed on the underground, but as it stands, I can't call myself a fan of what these guys are doing here.

Conor Fynes | 2/5 |

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