Saturday, July 18, 2015

Review of Dorthia Cottrell's Self-Titled Debut

Despite an abundance of stereotypes that suggest the contrary, heavy metal has always had an interesting relationship with acoustic music. It has been used for melodic contrast since the early days of Sabbath and Zeppelin but certain doom singers to be taking it a step further in recent years. Icons such as Wino, Dax Riggs, and even Buzz Osborne have released solo albums of singer-songwriter fare, each with its own voice but still seemingly part of some undetected movement. A new name is added to the list is that of Dorthia Cottrell, who is already making a solid claim as a solo artist after only putting out two studio albums (and a third on the way) with the up-and-coming Windhand.

Despite the major differences in sonic output and instrumentation, doom metal and folk are linked by their emphasis on emotion and atmosphere over technical ability. Thus, the feel on here isn't too far off from Windhand's heavier approach. Replacing the droning riffs with simply strummed chords and the occasional steel guitar or sitar may result in a lighter sound and more prominent vocals, but the album is still defined by a dark aesthetic. Even the gentler patterns on songs like "Maybe It's True" and her take on Townes Van Zandt's "Rake" have a melancholic feel to them.

But with this being the sort of albums where the songs tend to blur together, much of its strength comes from Cottrell's vocal performance. While she normally just adds to the haze of Windhand's Electric Wizard worship and doesn't stick out much, she really comes into her own here. Her vocals do tend to stay within a limited range but the echoing effects combined with her reassuring alto result in a performance that isn't too far off from one of Jarboe's more depressing streaks.

Seeing how Windhand had already flirted with acoustic material before prior to this album's release, it isn't too surprising to see their singer pull it off in a solo format. However, the atmosphere and the beauty of Cottrell's voice keep this from being an overlooked curiosity. The material isn't flawless but it sounds like the perfect soundtrack for driving down a quiet backroad at 3am. Highly recommended to lovers of dark Americana and doom fans looking for something new to mellow out to.

"Maybe It's True"

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