Exile On Mainstream Records
Anybody who calls themselves a purveyor of heavy music is a fan of guitarist/vocalist Wino. Whether from the Obsessed era, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand or his numerous other projects, the name Wino is an integral part of the heavy music scene. With his gravelly voice and love for low-end, it’s easy to forget how unusual Wino’s approach to the craft really is. On his new solo album Adrift, (released in Europe in October, official release date in the use this March) Wino, armed with basically his voice and an acoustic guitar, brings an entire new level to his already charmed career. Adrift might set some metal fans ill at ease, fearing their hero has stepped away from the heavy in order to become more “spiritual”. Fear not, the Wino we love is still here but he’s decided to show us that below the thick fuzz, there beats the heart of a storytelling poet, one that is as at home with the blues as he is with the metal.
I knew that Adrift was going to be something different from the opening title track, which has more in common with Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald” in its lazy, melancholy sea-faring vibe. That track sets the entire mood for Adrift and Wino doesn’t really deviate from it. With so much in his history this album feels like a real palette cleanser for Wino. Something he’s done to take a step back from his wide breadth of work and remember why he loves music in the first place. Wino is nothing if not honest and that pure integrity shines through particularly well here. Adrift reminds me of when Johnny Cash began working with Rick Rubin. I’m not comparing the two artists; I’m talking more about the purity of the album. This is stripped down Wino, this is the ringleader of a metal circus stepping outside the big top, lighting a smoke, and thinking about his own story.
As the album moves through its twelve tracks, Wino does interject some fuzzy guitar sounds, but more to thicken up the sound and add emotion than to try and make anything heavy. “Mala Suerte” and other tunes throughout Adrift are peppered with the appearance of electric guitar. I’ll be honest, at first I was a little thrown by the random solos and electric interference, mainly because the acoustic work here is, alone, so powerful. After a second and third listen it all clicked and the guitars were a welcome accompaniment. For me they now represent Wino’s strive to make Adrift a personal statement about himself, one he couldn’t make without involving the electric guitar. To do it with only acoustics would seem, somehow, disingenuous.
One of the showstoppers on Adrift is Wino’s cover of the Motorhead classic “Iron Horse/Born To Lose”. This isn’t a prize track because it’s a Motorhead cover but because of what Wino does with it. The original was the guttural and harsh tale of what it means to be a Hell’s Angel, the grim story of a man dedicated to his bike. Wino takes the same story and turns it into an epic, tragic tale with his acoustic version. Where Lemmy and Motorhead’s “Iron Horse/Born To Lose” was an action movie, Wino’s version has the feel of an old western, that same weary sadness that all great western heroes have. It’s pretty spectacular to watch Wino take a tune from a respected peer and, with great respect for the original, make it his own. Again I bring in the Johnny Cash comparison because this is very reminiscent of what Cash did with Trent Reznor’s “Hurt”. My outlook on this album may seem very pretentious but it’s a true summation of the work. Adrift is not only a collection of great songs, but also a testimony to the true artistic integrity and voice of Robert Scott “Wino” Weinrich.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING 8 1/2 OUT OF 10
Southern Lord Records
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum is Jason…The Dragon from North Carolina sludge masters Weedeater. This is an album where the making of it is a filled with as many rough and grizzly times as the songs themselves. 2010 was a tumultuous year for Weedeater starting with vocalist “Dixie” Dave Collins shooting off his big toe, leading to the “Nine Toe Tour” and followed by drummer Keith “Keko” Kirkum’s surgery just after. The incidents forced the band to cancel sessions with famed producer Steve Albini, but finally, after all of that, the band rebounded, got to record a new record, and have arrived with a great result. I don’t know if the surgery and loss of appendages made Weedeater angrier or they just had some time to perfect these tunes but Jason…The Dragon is one of their most gut-busting ventures to date.
I have always been a fan of Weedeater’s attitude about music. This is a band that creates what they want and those who love it, great, those who don’t, can pretty much fuck off. The intro “The Great Unfurling” sounds like the beginning of every 80s fantasy movie ever made ad it gives way to the first actual track “Hammerhandle”, a low-end bonanza featuring methodical drums, dense and layered guitar work and, of course, those crunchy vocals. Dixie Dave sounds like a demon whose throat was cut during a bar fight easing the pain by drinking battery acid and broken glass. Having those vocals push through the weighted music of Weedeater is what gives the band their unique punch. Song after song the band takes the best of doom, sludge and noise, twists it up and boils it in a “Metal Kettle” (yeah I said it, what?).
I also love that Weedeater haven’t lost their sense of humor. Take for instance the sixty-second drum solo titled “March Of The Bipolar Bear”, or the redneck guitar pickin’ tune “Palms Of Opium”. Try and imagine the evil witch from the film Pumpkinhead singing a tune alongside a traveling Dixie band from Hell and you’ll get the idea of “Palms Of Opium”. Weedeater love to weave some truly inspired piss-takes around their normal sludge and bone crunching tunes. For me it’s a musical representation of being really, really high. At one point you’re really serious, then kind of self-involved and then laughing hysterically at nothing. Jason….The Dragon is just like that, its good time but on a completely otherworldly level.
Weedeater isn’t for everybody and I fully comprehend that. To some, their mix of southern sludge, doom metal and caustic wit is like a sandpaper hand job. To me Weedeater are a much-needed relief in a genre that, by and large, takes itself way too seriously. To truly understand a genre, to really be able to flush it out and get under said genre’s skin, you have to see the humor in it. If you can’t laugh at the music you love, then you’ll never see the holes in it and the areas where boundaries can be pushed. Case in point, Black Metal, those guys are so serious about that music that they turn the same crap out year after year and anybody who doesn’t play their game is looked upon as false. Weedeater fully understand the humor behind metal and combine it with a reverence for strong songwriting and huge sounds. Jason…..The Dragon is not only a killer album; it’s a lesson for anybody who takes themselves, or metal, way too seriously.