I'm not really into stonerrock or classic doom metal (or the various hybrids) but I have to admit to kind of liking 'Soma' by Windhand when it came out last year. It provided all the sludgy, crunchy guitars that I like every now and then. Most of the time I'm not that into the classic doom vocals but 'Soma' buried the soaring vocals and totally drenched them in echo and reverb, just so that for me it enhanced the experience. Singer Dorthia Cottrell has a very a-typical 'female metal' voice and again, while I'm not into female singers when it comes to my metal, it worked for me. So in short, 'Soma' was a nice album, nothing more, nothing less.
Fast forward and a year later there is the 'Live at Roadburn 2014' vinyl. Roadburn has achieved an almost legendary status over the years, with tickets selling out in mere minutes. So yeah, I wasn't there this year. Or the year before for that matter. Or the year before... No worries, a live album should give me the next best experience, right? Ehmmm not quite.. For starters, the sound of the instruments and the mix is so good, that apart from the vocals, the live tracks sound pretty much like on the album. It really is uncanny how close it resembles the album. Matters aren't helped by the fact that 4 of the 5 tracks are from 'Soma' AND the first 3 are played in the same order as on 'Soma'. Only 'Winter Sun', the 4th track on the LP, is from their eponymous 2012 debut album. Now, the vocals.. Well, I sure as hell won't say Dorthia is a bad singer, far from it. She has such a distinct and powerful voice, but without all the reverb and echo, a lot of the appeal that it had on 'Soma' is lost on me on the live versions.
Another problem I have with this LP is that unless you were actually there at the show, it feels pretty useless. It undoubtledly helps you recall a bit of the live experience but when you weren't there it's pretty much just 'Soma' with one different track in lieu of the 'Soma' tracks 'Boleskin' and 'Evergreen', sans the effects on the vocals. "Yeah but what about the live atmosphere man?", I hear you say. Granted, it would be nice to hear an audience go out of it's mind, yelling, screaming, clapping; some sort of way to hear they were enjoying themselves. And that goes for the band as well. Now we have a barely (and I do mean barely) audible "Thanks for coming guys" from Dorthia and equally barely audible clapping and an occasional yell. There might be 5 guys clapping politely or a 1000 doom maniacs going crazy for all I know, I just can't hear it. This is all in favour of the excellent recording quality and sound mix. Credit where credit's due, it really is excellent.
All in all this is a perfect souvenir for people who where actually there. For everyone else, spend your cash at Relapse on a version of 'Soma' or go and see them for yourself at the next tour.