kirk winstein

Album Review: “Dream In Motion” by Kirk Windstein

Heavy metal luminary Kirk Windstein has spent the last 35 years gracing the world with the heaviest, crushing, earth splitting, melancholic metal on the planet as founder and front man of Crowbar. His aptly titled solo debut, Dream In Motion, retains the sorrowful, downbeat spirit of Crowbar, but with a varied musical soundscape. The title track and initial single commences the record with Kirk’s signature sludge guitar riffs accompanied with pounding drums and bass. An ode to his life and career, “Dream In Motion” is a declaration of perseverance and dedication. It is a story of a man that has seen it all and knows that there is more to come. The grooving midsection and crunching guitar riffs reaffirm why Kirk’s music has stood the test of time.

“Hollow Dying Man” is a desolate, eerie number with gloomy riffs that one would expect to hear at a funeral procession. This melancholic feeling remains throughout the album. “Once Again” is notable for its jazzy percussion, which strangely complements the hazy, weeping guitars on the track. “The World You Know” is another dirge with a depressing, overwhelming riff that feels like a looming black cloud. Despite the despondent music, Kirk urges one to live on, in hopes of a better tomorrow. “Necropolis,” features a strumming guitar that sounds like tears hitting the ground. The mournful guitar keys accentuate the feeling of sadness and misery on this track. The album concludes with a cover of “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull and a personal favorite song of mine. Crowbar has played this song live, but never recorded it for an album. Kirk and company cover the song superbly, especially during the acoustic part of the song. A song about homeless man without hope, the lyricist encourages Aqualung to carry on. It is a fitting end to an album created by a man that refuses to give up.

Dream In Motion is not a Crowbar album by another name. There are heavy parts on the record, but it focuses more on mood than loud guitars. Crowbar has several songs in its discography that are soft, psychedelic and unorthodox (Odd Fellows Rest, Amaranthine to name a couple). Thus, Dream is not an album out of left field, as Crowbar fans are familiar with Kirk’s softer material. That feeling of hopelessness and isolation disrupted by but a scintilla of optimism is also present on this record. Heaviness is not just about volume, but feeling and Kirk masters that emotion as he’s mastered the riff.

Dream In Motion is a very strong effort that will satisfy Crowbar fans who have followed Kirk on his amazing journey. The fact that Crowbar are recording a new album this year and Kirk is back in Down is proof positive that the dream continues.

Check out Crowbar’s website for tour dates and merch:

http://www.crowbarnola.com/

CD Review: “Reign Of Gold” by Human Fortress

German power metal outfit Human Fortress return with its sixth release Reign Of Gold. “Thunder” is hampered by thin production and is somewhat generic. Things improve on the title track with its driving rhythm compliments of drummer Apostolos Zaios. “Lucifer’s Waltz” is a diabolical number that would incite an unholy dance at a black mass. The metallic bombast is subdued by ominous strings and an unholy choir that creates an unnerving atmosphere for the track’s duration. “Bullet Of Betrayal” is a melodic track with a strong folk influence. The combination of guitar harmonies and lush keyboards provide for a serene musical landscape. “Shine of Light” falls a bit flat with its schmaltzy piano intro and Gus Monsanto’s pastiche vocals. Power metal often falls victim to its own conventions and it is apparent on this track. Things get heavier on “The Blacksmith” with its sharp guitar riffs and double bass drumming and “Martial Valor” which is a mid-tempo rocker with a heart tugging woodwind solo during the track’s midsection. Initial single “Legion Of The Damned” is a fast paced ride through a dark forest with its punk drums and Iron Maidenesque guitar parts. Album closer “Victory” is a galloping rocker with an overarching string arrangement that accentuates the emotional thrill of victory.

Reign Of Gold is a mixed bag as it is interesting at times and generic at other times. This lack of consistency mars the experience as Human Fortress can play some serious power metal. However, Reign lacks the heaviness and depth found on other power and symphonic metal records. Tracks like “Martial Valor,” “Lucifer’s Waltz,” and “Victory” are heavy with classical elements that heighten the experience. Unfortunately other tracks lack the drive of the aforementioned songs.

Human Fortress has carved a niche in the power metal sub-genre since its formation 20 years ago. However, Reign Of Gold is not a breakout record that would catapult the band to the upper echelons of power metal. There are some solid songs, but not enough to recommend the record to folks. Fans of the band will probably pick it up. However power metal fans may be a little disappointed. Sadly, Reign Of Gold takes the bronze.

Check out the band’s official website:

http://www.human-fortress.de/

CD Review: “Arcane Astral Aeons” by Sirenia

Sirenia gets right to business on its ninth effort, Arcane Astral Aeons, with the crushing “In Styx Embrace”. The driving guitar riffs and grooving percussion meld well with the orchestral elements. We are even treated to blast beats before transitions to an acoustic passage before concluding in bombastic fashion.

Album single “Into The Night” is a mid tempo rocker with a catchy chorus and some splendid keyboard work. Guitarist Morten Veland unleashes a blistering solo that concludes too soon. “Love Like Cyanide” is the initial single off Astral, with a pumping percussion underneath choppy, classically inspired guitar riffs. Vocalist Emmanuelle Zoldan sounds both powerful and vulnerable here, as she laments about toxic love. The track’s midsection is notable for its gothic chorus and tight groove.

“Desire” has a thick galloping riff that accentuates Zoldan’s sultry vocals. She even sings a passage in French over a playful melody before the song kicks back in to high gear with a stomping guitar riff and a black metal interlude.

“Asphyxia” commences with a dissonant guitar riff and a dark ambient electronic sample that segues in to a sludgy guitar riff. There is greater use of industrial and electronica samples on this song, making it an interesting listen.

“The Voyage” is aptly named as its rollicking guitars symbolize a vessel moving to and fro across a hostile sea. This is a dynamic, heavy track with a howling arabesque guitar lead that accentuates the adventurous tone on this track.

Arcane Astral Aeons is 55 minutes long, but there are few dull spots on this record. The album’s 11 tracks are diverse, yet cohesive. This is attributed to several elements of black metal and grooving rhythms appearing throughout the album. Thus, Astral is not monotonous, but there is an aura of similarity to each track. I have said numerous times that symphonic and progressive metal bands have to make extra strides to avoid pretentious and wayward songs. Well, Sirenia have avoided the trap with ease. Zoldan’s grandiose vocals are superb as usual and the guitar riffs are thick and pack a wallop.

Ultimately, Astral is a crushing record with a nice blend of orchestral and electronica samples. Fans will certainly enjoy it as the band’s signature sound is intact with a new black metal element that makes it heavier. Sirenia continue to reach the stars.

Check out the band’s official website for news and tour dates:

http://sirenia.no/

CD Review: “Electric Messiah” by High On Fire

High On Fire pay tribute to the legendary Lemmy Kilmister with its aptly titled eighth record, Electric Messiah. The trio’s blend of Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Slayer is in full throttle throughout the record. “Spewn from the Earth” is a straight trasher replete with frontman Matt Pike’s guttural wails and ground shaking guitar riffs. Drummer Des Kensel’s manic double bass only heightens the song’s intensity. “Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil” is one of two epic songs on this album that surpass nine minutes. A metallic take on the history of Sumeria, “Steps” is a towering piece of riffs that trudge forward, engulfing the listener’s ears. Things speed back up on the title track, which would do Lemmy proud. “Electric Messiah” is a blitzing take-no-prisoners assault of pummeling double bass and lighting palm muted riffs. This track offers little breathing room and forces you to bang your head. The way it should be. The second epic track, “Sanctioned Annihilation,” is composed of a driving triplet drum pattern underneath sludgey guitar riffs. This leads to a disjointed, yet cohesive tempo that is slow but mid-paced. There is little drag despite its 10 and a half minute duration, and it stands as the record’s centerpiece. Album closer “Drowning Dog” is a galloping psychedelic rocker that concludes the album in grand fashion.

Electric Messiah rarely lets up throughout its 56 minute duration. This record pays homage to Lemmy in the best way: playing loud, fast and heavy. Matt Pike’s riffs attack from every angle while bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Kensel easily keep up. The record’s primary weak spot is “The Witch and the Christ” which lacks direction. Matt and company are at their best when they are dynamic and have an end goal. Luckily, this is only one misstep and the other eight tracks more than make up for it. The production is rugged yet clear, and one can hear the band’s pugnacious sound in all its glory.

Matt certainly paid proper respect on Electric Messiah. A heavy, thrilling musical journey that will leave ears bleeding and necks hurting. Fans of the band should pick this up as well as folks new to the group. This is certainly worship music for the Church of Metal.

Check out the band’s official website here:

http://highonfire.net/

CD Review: “Scourge Of The Enthroned” by Krisiun

Krisiun’s eleventh record, Scourge Of The Enthroned, is a colossal slab of merciless blast beats and armor crushing riffs. The title track opens this album with a hellish, yet grandiose riff before slamming straight to hell. Drummer Max Kolesne’s chaotic blast beats synchronize with Moyses Kolesne’s chainsaw guitars throughout the song. The song’s seamless rhythm changes make for an unpredictable and exciting listen.

“Demonic III” is possibly a tribute to this brotherly trio, whose music could conjure a thousand devils. The pulverizing stop start riff sets the mood of this track before the band plays even faster! Moyses even treats us to several guitar leads sandwiched between the monolithic drums and riffs. Meanwhile, bassist and vocalist Alex Camargo’s guttural vocals match the song’s intensity. The song’s crushing midsection solidifies this song as one of the best in the band’s 28 year existence.

Max’s drumming on “Slay The Prophet” advances like an army upon a defenseless city. Once again the track’s midsection provides the listener a slight break as the band settles into brief, albeit nice groove before switching back to heavy mode. Krisiun’s thrash influence shows on “A Thousand Graves” with its fast tempo before transitioning to a rolling blast beat pattern. The riffs on this track strike like several spikes at once. Album closer “Whirlwind Of Immortality” commences with a twisting riff that is joined by rapid drumming, before alternating between a broken galloping riff and a staccato riffing bolstered by blast beats. A fitting end for a record structured on uncertainty and technical chaos.

Scourge Of The Enthroned is Krisiun at its most technical, yet its most dynamic. The complex song structures are at times catchy but never ambitious. Technical death metal bands often fall victim to emphasizing musicianship over emotion, yet Krisiun avoids this common pitfall. You can chalk it up to experience, however Scourge’s brevity is also a main factor. It features just eight tracks and is barely 38 minutes in length. Therefore, Krisiun spend little time fooling about and get right to business. The album’s production superb which is expected from this trio. The drumming and guitars are up front and one can easily hear every time change, riff and lead.

Krisiun once again prove why it is extreme metal royalty on this record. Scourge Of The Enthroned shows a band operating at top performance with several tracks that will certainly become fan favorites. Fans should not worry about the album’s length compared to the band’s past three releases as the songs are around four to six minutes in length. This record certainly takes the throne.

Check out Krisiun’s official Facebook page for news and tour dates:

https://www.facebook.com/krisiun.official/

CD Review: “X” by Nonpoint

Nonpoint unleash its tenth record, X, after 21 years of rocking all over the globe. The band quickly gets down to business with album opener “Empty Batteries.” It is a grooving stomper with a shade of thrash with its dual guitar attack. Vocalist Elias Soriano’s soaring vocals shine on this track with its melodic chorus. “Chaos and Earthquakes” is trademark Nonpoint with the rapping vocal delivery and melodic guitar lines. This song is sure to be a fan favorite and will certainly garner radio airplay. The opening of “Fix This” is a thick wall of pummeling guitars slightly off-key with the drum beat. Things click in with a sweet bass line from Adam Woloszyn. This track is slightly weak compared to the one-two combination of the previous songs, but a nice guitar lead saves this track from mediocrity. “Passive Aggressive” is a fusion of biting guitar riffs and pounding drums and a melancholy chorus. Drummer Robb Rivera drives this song forward with interesting drum fills and rhythm changes. There is a strong Prong influence on “Dodge Your Destiny” with its trashing and unorthodox riffing. The Latin percussion during the song’s second half makes this track a highlight on X. “Milestone” plods forward with a lazy riff which contrasts with Soriano’s rapid rapping. Penultimate track “The Way I Feel” is a despondent track about feeling helpless in a crumbling relationship. This track is fairly poppy despite its depressing lyrics yet Soriano’s vocals are so powerful that you overlook the music.

X is a terse yet powerful statement from Nonpoint. This is a no-frills record with very little filler. The band has expanded its sound with a heavier thrash influence that adds depth to the music. Guitarists Rasheed Thomas and B.C. Kochmit can lay down some heavy riffs and shred, which makes the album a great listen. Elias’s vocals are still amazing after two decades and it is recognizable in this metal genre. Producer Fred Archambault did a great job recording every instrument. The guitar sound is thick yet clear and the bass is rumbling in the background.

Well, X is another notch in the belt for this storied band. Nonpoint fans should enjoy it and these tracks will certainly kick off some mosh pits at the band’s concerts. X shows that Nonpoint are not slowing down anytime soon.

Check out the band’s website for news and tour dates. 

CD Review: “Bloody But Unbowed” by Halcyon Way

Atlanta metal band Halcyon Way soldiers on with its fourth release, Bloody But Unbowed. It is a fitting title for a band that formed 17 years ago and continue to wave the metal flag down South. The opening track “Deevolution” starts with a stringed section fused with industrial percussion before the guitars and drums kick in. It is a minute-long song that catches the listener off guard. Drummer Aaron Baumoel’s bass drum drives the title track and is accompanied by some thrashing riffs from guitarists Jon Bodan and Max Eve. The guitar leads are a bit weak for such a grandiose track, but overall this is a strong song that must be played live. “Blame” is the lead single on Bloody and is notable for its pulverizing riffs and mechanical drumming which contrasts with frontman Steve Braun’s soaring vocals. There is a tinge of industrial on “Slaves To Silicon” which is appropriate considering the title. This track is a bit slower than the previous songs and has a groove during the song’s verses. “Superpredator” is a bit clunky with its palm muted riffing but is saved by Baumoel’s monolithic drumming. This track is a bit cheesy, but it is still a fun song. “Primal Fear” is an aggressive, dynamic cut with some interesting guitar phrasing that weaves like a maze.

Bloody But Unbowed walks the thin line between seriousness and mirth. Power and progressive bands are known for bombastic and ostentatious musicianship and songwriting (as I have stated in other reviews) but here, the band is clearly having fun. The guitarists are throwing out some nice leads and riffs but do not get too carried away. Braun’s voice is strong and clear, yet goes over the top from time to time. There are hints of Pantera, Dream Theater and Metallica on this album. However, do not expect to hear a song like “One” “Cemetery Gates” or “Pull Me Under.” Halcyon Way does a good job of offering enough variety for everyone. The production is great and special kudos to the drumming production on this album.

Well, Halcyon Way has accomplished its mission on Bloody But Unbowed. It is the fun-loving little brother to Fates Warning and Dream Theater that deserves mention. While grizzled prog and power metal veterans may pass this up, this album is a good introduction to these subgenres. Keep marching on Halcyon Way.

Check out the band’s official Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/halcyonway

CD Review: “The Sacrament Of Sin” by Powerwolf

German gothic power metal quintet Powerwolf offers its seventh release titled The Sacrament Of Sin. The album is a dark, yet accessible as it blends gothic, power metal and symphonic metal to strong effect. Album opener “Fire & Forgive” is a galloping number with a bombastic chorus and shredding guitar lead. “Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend” is a straight forward rocker that will appease gothic girls the world over. The saccharine nature of the song borders on comedy, but does not take away from the album. Things take a dour turn on “Killers With The Cross” which sounds inspired by 1960s Hammer vampire films. The stomping drums are instep with the dynamic riffs by guitarists Matthew and Charles Greywolf. This is not a generic track as there are several interweaving leads during the song’s midsection. “Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone” is a sorrowful ballad with lush piano and powerful vocals by front man Atilla Dorn. The Greywolf Brothers again offer stellar guitar leads that underline the track’s melancholy tone. “Nightside of Siberia” fierce riffing recalls viking metal stalwarts Amon Amarth. However, this is not a blatant ripoff, but a slight homage. The baroque guitar work and pounding bass drums make this one of the standout tracks on Sacrament.

The Sacrament of Sin is an accessible metal record with an extreme edge. Powerwolf adopts the epic bombast of power metal sans the pretentiousness of the aforementioned genre. No song on this album even approaches the 5 minute mark nor are there elongated guitar leads or drum solos. The musicianship is strong and the record is rife with shout-along choruses. Producer Jens Bogren does a great job of capturing the Greywolf Brother’s guitar chops and Dorn’s vocals.

In numerology, the number seven means completion. Well, here is hoping Powerwolf do not hang it up anytime soon. The Sacrament Of Sin is a strong record that should satisfy fans of power and symphonic metal. This sacrament ensues headbanging.

For news and tour info, check out the band’s website at www.powerwolf.net

CD Review: “Downfall Of Mankind” by Nervosa

Brazilian death-thrash trio Nervosa deliver a blistering dose of speed on its third album, Downfall Of Mankind. The album’s brief intro is dissonant and foreboding, merely hinting at what is in store. The next track, “Horrordrome,” is a full on thrash assault. This song is rife with sharp riffs and blast beats while guitarist Prika Amaral unleashes a chaotic solo. “Never Forget Never Repeat” is a scathing commentary on human history and how bigotry and hatred leads to war and genocide. The brutality of the music complements the lyrics with its maniacal speed and steel cutting guitar riffs. The relentless tempo feels like you are in the midst of a battle among dead bodies and rubble. On “Enslave” there is a tinge of Swedish death metal fused with a hardcore stomp. The song seamlessly speeds up and slows down, and is sure to induce a circle pit at a show. That hardcore influence reappears in all its brutal glory on “…And Justice For Whom?” New drummer Luana Dametto is merciless on the kit, hitting double beats, blast beats and everything in between. Frontwoman Fernanda Lira’s demonic shrieks heighten the energy on this track, making it one of the best on the album. “No Mercy” is one of the fastest songs on Downfall, giving the listener little room to relax save for a brief breakdown during the midsection. This track certainly lives up to its title.

Downfall Of Mankind shows Nervosa maturing as a cohesive unit. The songwriting is technical and precise, but also brutal and unpredictable. The songs twist and turn, but are never wayward. Nervosa are never overambitious, and keep each track under the five minute mark, thus the tracks never linger. The production is great, with no tinny drum sounds or overly thick guitar sound.

Nervosa hit a home run with this album. Downfall Of Mankind is the group’s best record to date and one of the best metal albums of 2018. The social commentary, hardcore drumming and blistering riffs fuse together for an aggressive, unrelenting yet thought provoking album. This record is a mandatory purchase for fans of both old school and contemporary metal.

Check out the band’s official website:

http://nervosaofficial.com/site/eng-band/

CD Review: “Love From With The Dead” by With The Dead

The ear piercing, distortion on “Isolation” opens up the second slab of doom released by With The Dead. The lumbering riffs and plodding drums meander like a blind giant in a forest. It is a fitting way to kick things off on Love From With The Dead. “Egyptian Tomb” is notable for its spacey Phrygian chord progression and rolling bass lines. The eerie spoken word is underscored by spider like chord picking and subdued tribal drums before guitarist Tim Bagshaw unleashes a bluesy lead. “Cocaine Phantoms” is as spectral as the title expresses with an ethereal guitar line and Lee Dorrian’s raspy vocals grating over a doom laden riffs. It is primal metal that discards technique in favor of sheer mood and heaviness. “Watching The Ward Go By” has a running time of over 10 minutes, and is the second longest song on the record. The ominous guitar strumming and heart pumping beat conveys a secluded, maddening atmosphere setting the tone for the song’s duration. The droning, forceful riffs during the second half on this track only heighten the hopeless feeling of this song. There is a strong Type O Negative feel on “Anemia” with its grandiose opening riff which contrasts with the slow tempo. The 17 minute long “CV1” is an epic funeral dirge that appropriately concludes this album. A sullen, downcast composition that is relentless and unapologetic.

With The Dead’s second album is commendable for its cohesiveness and go for the gut attitude. Doom metal is about feeling, a depressive feeling that offers a strange sense of consolation. The members of this band know this as they have played in such luminary bands as Cathedral and Electric Wizard. Love From With The Dead is primal, yet complex as the despondent mood on this record persists for 65 minutes. All three instruments are highlighted and the result is a deafening experience.

Love From With The Dead is a labor of love. The seven songs on this album are prime doom metal that should satisfy fans of the band member’s previous groups. The line-up change with new members Leo Smee (bass) and Alex Smith (drums) gives the music a fresh kick and hopefully this line-up remains for future albums. Let the power of the riff compel you.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/withthedead/