Dorthia Cottrell - Dorthia Cottrell - (9/10)
Published on March 14, 2015
“I’m gonna break my heart here on this microphone”
Dorthia Cottrell is most likely best known as the vocalist for the Richmond, Virginia doom band Windhand. Her eerie and ethereal voice has been blessing the band’s sound since the beginning, and she has also given some wonderful performances on a couple of tracks from the band Bastard Sapling. After proving herself to be a top vocalist in the doom scene, she is releasing her first solo record; a self-titled effort via Forcefield Records. Similar to the Mike Scheidt (YOB vocalist) solo record from a couple of years back and the Steve Von Till solo recordings; this solo effort focuses more on the slower, singer-songwriter stylings of the artist. Armed with just a guitar (and a few effects) and a beautiful voice, Dorthia Cottrell has released a thoughtful, beautiful and at times very dark solo album.
As mentioned, the album is very simple and straightforward musically. The effects are few and far between for most of the record, and used to add some melancholy and additional atmosphere more times than not. The focus on Dorthia Cottrell is in the vocals and the slow and emotional guitar playing. Where as the Mike Scheidt record may have had a bit more of a folk influence, this record comes off feeling a bit more country at times, and slightly bluesy while still retaining plenty of folky influence. There is a good amount of twang in the guitar; which compliments the airy and trance like vocals on the album. There is great imagery put on the listener here as well of being on a ranch or in the woods huddled around a campfire. Where as Windhand is drenched in distortion and the vocals were always top notch, they could be drowned out at times by the fuzzy guitars and pounding drums. This is not the case on this self-titled release. The vocals are given the chance to really be at the forefront and show just how capable Dorthia is as a gripping vocalist. Her voice demands attention and takes the listener an emotional roller coaster during this all too brief record.
At 11 tracks and about 44 minutes is not by any means a ‘short’ record, but these songs breeze by and seem to be over all too soon; which is really a compliment. This is an easy album to digest, but leaves such an impression that it is hard to not listen to it time and time again. Not only is Dorthia one of the more captivating singers in doom, but she is now proving that she has the ability to draw attention in other styles of music as well, and It is hard not to notice her prowess as a singer and musician. Each track has enough legs to stand on their own, despite being fairly formulaic. There is not too much variation in the guitar tone (aside from a few effects and a steel guitar), yet there is enough variety in the songs themselves to stand apart from one another. I can see how a non-metal crowd may be slightly turned off by this type of record, as it is certainly not metal in the slightest, but it does retain some very dark tones and lyrical matter that metal bands try to force into their music, while feeling so natural here. It really feels like a naked/open and honest display of the artist. Quite an admirable thing, and done to perfection.
There is something truly melancholic and sad about this record, but the soft and naked vocals do show glimmers of brightness and hope; which is why the record works so well. It has a little bit of the sad and gloomy, and hopeful and uplifting moments. Anyone who has listened to Windhand and especially seen the band live can attest to the commanding power of Dorthia’s voice, and her musical skills are given the chance here to shine as well; showing that she has the complete package, and deserves to be listed in the top current vocalists in the scene (metal or not). While not the most technical guitar player, she has managed to write haunting melodies that are memorable and enjoyable listen after listen. This record is outstanding I can only hope we get more of this solo effort sooner than later.