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Windham Hell - Reflective Depths Imbibe CD (album) cover

REFLECTIVE DEPTHS IMBIBE

Windham Hell

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.16 | 6 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Reflective Depths Imbibe' - Windham Hell (6/10)

With as many bands as there are playing within the metal umbrella, it is difficult to find bands that have a sound to themselves, let alone coming up with unique metal. The style of shred guitar is one such style which all too often seems to throw away thoughts of distinguishing oneself stylistically, instead aiming to wow the listener with an erudite knowledge of scales, theory, and the ability to ply fast enough to dislocate the Earth off its orbit. Windham Hell therefore comes as an oddity; in a style of music I have largely grown out of, they have done something with it that I would not have imagined; an avant-garde, experimental twist on shredding. There is still good reason why this band never met much of an audience during its time, but the unique sound here is certainly worth checking out what Windham Hell has to offer on 'Reflective Depths Imbibe'.

When I think of neoclassical shred metal, I typically think of artists like Yngwie Malmsteen; musicians whose skill and speed with the guitar are outweighed by their titanic egos, and this usually reflects greatly in, as well as deters from the musical product. Not much is known about Windham Hell's Leland Windham and fellow axeman Eric Friesen, but if the music on this third album is any indicator, it seems they have alot more on their minds than themselves. Neoclassical shredding (IE: playing scales faster than most people can play them) is a large part of the music here, but it is combined with a profound sense of atmosphere, one that might be even best identified with black metal. There are parts here where the counterpointing guitar lines sound like the work of an orchestral composer, and these two guitarists manage to play up to par with many shredders. Although labelled often as avant-garde metal, this is not so much experimental as it is taking existing elements and putting them together in a way that other artists have not really done before; it is the atmosphere that gives Windham Hell their unique vibe.

While this third album is much stronger than the debut 'South Facing Epitaph', there still seems to be something lacking in Windham Hell's sound. Maybe it is the amateurish feel or pounding drum machines, or even the fairly inconsistent level of quality in the music, but Windham Hell still seems to be coping with some issues, even on their last leg. I will say that when 'Reflective Depths Imbibe' is at its best, it touches the level of mastery. On the contrary, when it reaches its worst, it can get pretty painful, particularly the gloomy mixing of the drums and barely audible vocals- which are scarce enough as it is. Windham's best traits lie in the neoclassical arrangement, the sections where the music makes an effort to sound composed and classical. The shredding is well-done, but at this point for me, it runs thin very quickly. There are even a few thrashy moments here that don't do much for me.

Windham Hell's music sometimes verges on brilliance, but like the two albums before it, 'Reflective Depths Imbibe' suffers from a very patchy, inconsistent framework that tends to give me a rather mixed impression, rather than being able to call it a grand, or bland album. For what its worth, the excellence demonstrated in doses here is more than worth the parts where I was less convinced of the band's strength, although it does disappoint me to hear such potential greatness only feel partially realized in the end.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |

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