Doom, doom and yet even more doom! Continuing in the great dark work of the Relapse cult, Richmond’s Cough inaugurates this split with “Athame”. Named after the hallowed knife found on a Wiccan altar, it’s eerie build up cuts into you just like the namesake ceremonial relic. The ritual begins with a near 20-minute funeral dirge that drudges sluggishly through each measure as if the band were towing led coffins chained to their necks. Cough’s side of the split plays like a vulture of amp wattage hovering ominously above you.
But before the pungent smoke (with a peculiar hemp-like smell) can clear, Relapse neophytes Windhand answer Cough’s call to backward prayer. Bloody chalices rise in tribute towards their two-pronged end of the split. Picking up where their self-titled debut on Force Field left off, this coven continues on in their brand of Sabbathian, red-eyed doom metal, serving a grim foreshadowing of what’s to come on their upcoming full-length release for Relapse. Front-woman Dorthia Cottrell wails like a banshee; her howl swelling from under the gloomy, down-tuned haze with haunting timbre. Windhand’s brutal, yet ethereal sound does more than hold its own against a hard act to follow.
On Reflection of the Negative, both bands set a dense tone for all others in the genre to follow this year. Fans of the doom scene will erect a shrine to this split. It will inspire such austere respect from genre disciples that none would conceivably use its record sleeve as a rolling tray without viewing it as an act of sacrilege.