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: “Wizard Bloody Wizard” by Electric Wizard

Electric Wizard keep the doom wheel rolling on its ninth record Wizard Bloody Wizard. Six songs of bluesy sludge wrapped in psychedelia, the occult and melancholy. The record’s initial single “See You In Hell” is a primordial blues stomp akin to Black Sabbath. Front man Jus Osborn’s signature dissonant vocals wail through like a drunken mage while bassist Clayton Burgess keeps the bottom end depressingly groovy. “Necromania” is heavy psychedelia with its fuzzy guitar effects and light drumming. The song’s haunting lyrical content bizarrely fits the musical mood as though we are witnessing a satanic ritual in London circa 1969. The intro on “Wicked Caresses” perfectly creates the haunting mood on this track with pounding drums and minor guitar chords. This track moves and grooves thanks largely to Simon Poole’s drumming. Album closer “Mourning Of The Magicians” is the album’s magnum opus. An 11 minute elegy with a driving bass line that conjures a picture of people marching in a funeral procession. Jus’s despondent vocals capture the downcast aura on this track. It is beautiful in its sadness and relishes in its finality, especially with the line “here’s the darkness/ that you always wanted.”

Many point to Electric Wizard’s 2000 release Dopethrone as the band’s finest work and it is hard to disagree. However, Wizard Bloody Wizard shows the band is still capable of producing ear deafening doom metal 24 years since its formation. There is a looming darkness on his record even during its light moments which comes through in the muddled fuzz and feedback. Yes, the production is muddy, but not amateur or poor. It harkens to the production of Sixties and Seventies hard rock and metal records, only with a modern polish. The major weakness is the tinny sound of the guitar leads. There is some great lead guitar work on Wizard, unfortunately it is sometimes drowned out by the rhythm guitar and bass.

Wizard Bloody Wizard gets its point across in six songs which is Electric Wizard do sludge metal like no one else. Sure, this record is not up to par with the band’s earlier releases but that means little in the long run. The band’s heaviness has not dulled and the epic “Mourning Of The Magicians” is one of the band’s best songs. Pick this record up if you love the band or need some doom to crush your ear drums.

Check out the band’s website here: http://www.electricfuckinwizard.com/

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/

CD Review: “Profane Nexus” by Incantation

You can never underestimate the old guard. Incantation has spewed blasphemous, twisted death metal for 28 years. The band’s blend of death and gothic sludge has placed it in the upper echelons of extreme metal. After a six year hiatus, Incantation showed the metal world it could still the deliver the goods with its 2012 release, Vanquish In Vengeance. That creative kick continues on the group’s tenth album, Profane Nexus. “Muse” commences things in demonic fashion with a hypnotic guitar riff that explode into a cacophony of churning riffs. Vocalist and guitarist John McEntee’s guttural vocals are audible in the chaos, as if he is screaming from the depths of hell. On “Rites Of The Locust” the main spiraling riff perfectly parallels the drumming, like a demonic army marching off to war. Special attention should be paid to the slow paced coda with its grinding drums. Another highlight is the deformed beauty of “The Horns Of Gefrin.” The colossal, galloping opening instantly grabs the listener before it is interrupted by spurts of blast beats. It is an unpredictable song that transitions from fast to slow with a dynamic mid-section and tribal drums. “Lus Sepulcri” is an aggressive, straightforward track with roaring drums and dissonant guitars. The militaristic nature of the music differs from the twisted compositions the band is known for which makes it standout. “Ancients Arise” concludes Profane in grandiose fashion. It is a plodding, disturbing doom metal track reminiscent of Celtic Frost in its simplicity but sheer heaviness.

Profane Nexus is death/doom done right. It is not too complex, nor are the musical compositions clumsy. This should not surprise anyone as Incantation helped pioneer the sub-genre. The unorthodox riffing makes this an interesting album that is not generic in the slightest. Production wise this album is loud with a slight polish. It is not a perfect sounding album, which is good as that would detract from the menacing tone of the songs. It is a pulverizing but technical record.

Well, three albums into its comeback and Incantation are still on a roll. There are newer death metal bands that play more complex music than Incantation, but these groups lack the feel of the latter. Incantation do not play intricately for the sake of showmanship. The band’s dark message reflects the brutality of the music, which can be both elaborate and simple. Profane Nexus is another great release from this trio.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official website:

https://www.incantation.com/

CD Review: ‘With The Dead’ by With The Dead

Doom power supertrio With The Dead making a lumbering impression with its self titled debut. With The Dead is abundant in molten riffs and colossal drumming. Lee Dorrian (Cathedral, Napalm Death), Tim Bagshaw (Electric Wizard) and Mark Greening (Electric Wizard) put their musicianship, expertise and love for all things heavy into a cauldron and created a flawless doom record. The lo-fi Sabbath inspired “Crown of Burning Stars” is a bulky, sludgey affair so heavy it moves mountains. The music is stripped down and focuses on the majesty of the riff. The bluesy guitar lead soars from the ooze of riffs beneath it and is one of the many highlights on this track. The downcast intro of “The Nephthys” descends like a man heading towards the unknown. Nephthys is the proctector of the mummy in Egyptian mythology and a protector of the dead. How fitting, as the song slowly becomes more uplifting towards the end, like a man making peace with death. The album’s final track “Screams From My Own Grave” is dissonant and unsettling. The monolithic minor riffs are loud enough to wake the dead while the hypnotic drumming manages to keep things somewhat on beat.

With The Dead is a “supergroup” for lack of a better term, but it is true. The members have played in some of the most influential metal bands ever. However, neither member tries to outperform the other and the band is cohesive. The musicianship is solid, but never pretentious or over the top. This is good as the band never overplays its songs. Doom metal bands are notorious for making tracks too long. There seems to be this notion, that records with several 10 minute plus tracks are somehow masterpieces or serious works of musical art. This is not so as the tracks become musical exercises rather than songs.

With The Dead is a great debut that doom metal fans will enjoy. It is so heavy you will be jamming with the dead from the initial guitar note.

Check out the band’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/withthedead

CD Review: ‘Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent’ by Dead Empires

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Sugar and spice and just a dash of…sludge? Last time, the New York three-piece Dead Empires released an album was in 2012, with the vastly interesting debut LP Waiting In Waves. Happily, new material is upon us!  The group’s latest release, entitled Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent, will appear on Feb. 3, 2015, and my pre-release copy tells me that it’s ready to rock bodies and titillate cochleae.

Dead Empires is an instrumental three-piece outfit from upstate New York, who have made it a habit over the last few years of rampaging across New England with their unique brand of musicality. Much in the way a mosaic is constructed, combining fragments of vastly different materials and colors to form a thought-provoking final product, Dead Empires take a range of musical styles that when viewed closely seem vastly different, but when taken as a whole compose a breathtaking, organic experience. 100% Gluten Free – Guaranteed. I’m not sure about Kosher though.

So, onto the meat and potatoes of the review. Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent seems like a natural progression from Waiting In Waves, but continues a number of established traditions. The new release is more polished, thanks in part, no doubt, to their grand prize win at the 2013 Hudson Battle of the Bands competition which allowed them once again to record with D. James Goodwin (Devo, Murder By Death, Norah Jones). Additionally, when the last album was released, bassist DJ Scully had only just joined the band, which was at that time a four-piece. The two guitarists at the time, one of which is current member John Bryan, took turns on bass duty for recording the album.  Thus, on Secret Snakes we get to see what Scully can really bring to the band, and it is some low-end goodness, such as his rapidly riffed lines in “Five Day Death.” This also allows Bryan to focus more on his guitar duties, as he slathers the release in a coat of sludge and proceeds to lay mesmerizing melodies upon them, such as in the 16-minute closer, “House Of Light.” And I certainly can’t forget drummer Phil Bartsch, whose performance throughout this release might cause you to question at times whether there’s simply one man on percussion.

“I don’t like instrumental albums,” I hear you say. I usually don’t either. There are a handful of bands that seem to pull this sort of things off though, and Dead Empires is one of them. Their refusal to stick with one style keeps me from ever becoming bored with their music. Vocals? They don’t need no stinkin’ vocals! I’m not even sure what they’d be singing about with titles such as “Abra Cadaver” and “Cosmic Space Ape” (a personal favorite) anyway. But they managed to pull off a Jamaican Reggae breakdown in between a galloping, thrash-sludge rhythm and a reverberating spaced-out guitar solo, so maybe I shouldn’t doubt their capabilities in this regard, or any other. All I know is this: Valentine’s Day is coming up, and what better gift than the gift of Dead Empire’s Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent? Diamonds are forever, but this sounds better.

 

For more on Dead Empires, visit:
Official Website
Buy Secret Snakes / Silent SerpentFrom The Band
Facebook
Twitter
Youtube

 

CD Review: Life Drawing – Stoneburner

Life Drawing by Stoneburner is bold and complex, fearless and freaking heavy.

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Review by David Feltman

Even when dabbling in the peppier mid-tempos, there’s something undeniably sludgy in Stoneburner’s style. The band’s sophomore effort, Life Drawing, never brakes to the excruciatingly protracted speeds of bands like Neurosis or Harvey Milk, opting instead for the groovy southern jams of bands like Eyehategod and High on Fire. But Stoneburner stands apart by juxtaposing warm, fuzzy guitar tones with raspy barks and bleak atmospheric tangents that create an overall chilling effect.

Stoneburner’s experiments and playful compositions are fascinating and often creepy. The eight-minute “An Apology to a Friend in Need” begins with a head banging pulse but suddenly tapers off into a halting, reverb-addled interlude before finding its way back to the crushingly heavy riffs. The track never regains full speed after the odd bit of noodling, instead getting slower and heavier as it winds down in a sort of self-flagellation for its momentary weakness. This isn’t the half-baked sci-fi silliness of typical sludge/stoner fare; this is an album brimming with strife and pain.

The album is preoccupied with the concept of rebirth, second chances and the ultimate futility of striving to be a better person. Stoneburner doesn’t see a lot of hope for happy endings and bright futures. There’s a torrent of personal feelings swirling through Life Drawing, making the music all the more absorbing. The album is bold and complex, fearless and freaking heavy. This is thinking man’s metal.

You can find more about Stoneburner on Facebook and on the official website.