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Review: Windhand's 'Soma' brings a fresh approach to doom

| Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

‘Soma'

Windhand (Relapse)

★★★★

Just when you think there is nothing fresh that can be done with the doom metal genre, you get hit in the back of the head by Windhand. The Richmond, Va., band's second full-length is one of the heartiest, most emotional and dark doom records of the year and a true indication of this powerful unit's arrival.

Driven by the passionate, sometimes ghostly vocals of Dorthia Cottrell, Windhand packs punch after punch on this six-track record, and each passing second should help you transcend to a higher level of understanding on tracks such as the great “Woodbine”; noise-drenched “Feral Bones”; the pretty, haunting folk of “Evergreen”; and the mammoth, 30-minute closer “Boleskine” that'll scorch your face. This is a phenomenal album that'll make a lot of year-end lists.

‘Imitations'

Mark Lanegan (Vagrant)

★★★½

Mark Lanegan's raspy, quivery vocals sound like those of a world-weary man who has seen a lot of things and lived many lives. And that's not untrue of the versatile Lanegan, one of the great rock voices of our time who has played with Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, Gutter Twins, Isobel Campbell, and, of course, all by himself.

“Imitations” is a really interesting project where he unearths old and more recent songs that helped form his musical palette and passion, and he truly transforms these cuts into his own creations, including a take on Chelsea Wolfe's “Flatlands”; Bobby Darin's “Mack the Knife,” that he makes sound more ominous; John Cale's “I'm Not the Loving Kind”; and a pair of Sinatra cuts — Nancy's “You Only Live Twice” and Frank's “Pretty Colors.” If you love Lanegan like I do, you'll dig this unique collection.

‘Dalmak'

Esmerine (Constellation)

★★★★

Esmerine has been making really compelling records ever since its 2003 debut, and it even has collaborated with artists such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the Silver Mt Zion project. No matter what it does, it's always organic and purely original.

For its fourth record “Dalmak,” the band created a collection based on its recent musical residency in Istanbul, where the band members soaked up their surroundings and created this colorful, emotional album that feels like you're experiencing them perform in an open-street setting. The instrumental cuts are cinematic, exotic, and full of impact, from the two-headed “Lost River Blues” cuts, that go from soft to noisy; “Hayale Dalmak,” that's dressed in electronics and cool ambiance; and the two “Translator Clos” tracks that spiritually ascend to great heights.

‘On Oni Pond'

Man Man (Anti)

★★★½

Man Man always has been a fun, carnival-esque band that's poured rock, jazz, gypsy sounds, and other influences that stretch across the past few decades. “On Oni Pond,” its fifth record, finds the band grasping for accessibility, dialing back the crazy but not its penchant for fun songs.

Personally, I prefer Man Man when it seems like it's on the edge of insanity, but I can appreciate what the band does on these 13 songs. Cuts such as “End Boss,” “King Shiv,” “Loot My Body,” and flamboyant, rocked-out “Born Tight” are more likely to reach a wider audience, while “Pink Wonton” and wacky “Paul's Grotesque” offer an embrace to those of us along for the ride from the start. Hopefully Man Man's audience expands even more now. It sure does deserve it.

Brian Krasman is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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