Even as a Crowbar fan of over two decades standing, I was a little surprised when it was announced that January 2020 would see the release of a Kirk Windstein solo album. Having manned the helm of New Orleans most enduring and powerful Sludge Metal band since he founded it in 1989, he has resisted line up and musical style changes to pummel the ears of all who will listen with riff after quality riff.
Such a longevity and high standard in output has seen the man recognised by even the most institutionalised bastions of American music culture and is acknowledged by Rolling Stone magazine as ‘the sound of resilience’. The man has been interwoven into the NOLA music scene as long as it has mattered, rubbing shoulders with EyeHateGod, Corrosion of Conformity and of course being one of the founding members of super group Down.
In extra, extra circular activities, he has linked up with Hatebreed’s Jamie Jasta to produce the super heavy project Kingdom Of Sorrow whose two albums are some of the best material the man has put his name to.
Crowbar however, has been his home, his lifeblood and he stepped away from Down at a time when they had great popularity, but the wheels were starting to come off in order to go back and concentrate on his band, producing two amazing albums since in Symmetry In Black and The Serpent Only Lies.
So the concept of a Kirk Windstein project seemed a touch amusing, to me Crowbar IS a solo project…
I kid of course. Crowbar have been ploughing the Sludge Metal furrow with dedication for so long that, despite their high benchmark in standards, they’re a defined musical sound. Through them Kirk has become known as the Dark Lord of the Southern Riff. Even the best parts of Down are held up by the man’s Doom laden crunch and has certainly earned the right to immortalise the words ‘None Fucking Heavier’ on a t-shirt (until the fun police prevented this and the top is now sadly out of print).
Therefore, it makes sense that, if after nearly thirty years at the coalface of heavy music, the man wanted to explore other avenues or styles, he would release it as a separate concept rather than dent the legacy of all that has gone before.
And so to Dream In Motion…
Recorded in breaks between outings with Crowbar back home in his native Louisiana over a two year period, Windstein has worked with his tried and trusted producing partner Duane Simoneaux (Crowbar, Down, Exhorder) to produce an album of emotive heartfelt songs that sees the titular frontman handle all instruments bar Simoneaux’s drumming.
The result is quite eye opening to be honest. Harking back to more American heritage music, grounded in soft rock that speaks more to the classic seventies styles of Kirk’s youth, rather than the sonic battering his has made his name with.
the album kicks off with drums beating in a tribal tattoo, long, deep wringing notes and Kirk’s gruff voice commanding your attention.
The opening title track and later track Toxic are the closest thing on this album to the ground shaking sledgehammer blows of Crowbar/Kingdom Of Sorrow. The latter acting as a safety net that bridges the gap between what is expected and where the journey will go. As such, the album kicks off with drums beating in a tribal tattoo, long, deep wringing notes and Kirk’s gruff voice commanding your attention.
It may not be as balls out heavy as To Build A Mountain, but it is not far removed from the sound he has become known for, albeit leaning more to the melodic side.
Toxic is similar in style and possibly placed strategically towards the back end of the album to act as a hook for those pining for the more abrasive style of material. Again, whilst not sledgehammer heavy, it has huge rolling riffs and a dark menacing intent that gives way to a simple but effective hook.
It’s the other tracks on Dream In Motion that truly allow the man to exercise his creativity, and step away from his day job, to explore new avenues of song writing. Freed from expectation Windstein crafts a soulful album that is surprisingly light in touch and delicate in emotion.
Deliberately shying away from the obvious, this album often feels relaxed, a blue collar work ethic that hints at introspective blues.
This is a considered album that is full of picked strings and melodies that seem almost wistful and a look back at a life lived hard. In some ways, this could be likened to the Scorsese gangster film The Irishman; a man looking backwards rather than the high octane rush of Goodfellas. That’s not to suggest that Kirk is at the end of his career by any stretch, but Dream In Motion has a world-weary edge to it that recalls To Touch The Hand of God or the cover of Iron Maiden’s Strange World in its soft approach and bar stool wisdom.
This is not to dismiss any of the music at all, here there are soaring melodies and taught drum tattoos but this is a much lighter touch than you would initially imagine and a more tender side to Windstein that the freedom of a solo album allows.
This is a man who I saw introduce All I Had I Gave live by saying ‘I wrote this alone with a 12 pack of beer and a bag of heroin’ who now looks down the years through the prism of time and is telling tales through experience rather than anger.
Fans of Crowbar will be familiar with Kirk’s fondness to pay tribute to his influences, with the aforementioned Maiden tribute or his gruff take on Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter. Here he closes the album with a faithful rendition of another personal favourite in the form of Aqualung by Jethro Tull, which shows a more playful side to the man, as well as demonstrating his dexterity as a musician.
Dream In Motion is an interesting record but it’s probably not what you would expect from a man associated with the Riff Lord. On first listen it may disappoint some who want crushingly heavy music, but stepping back and letting this album sink in, it reveals layers and depths hidden in the subtlety and reveals a man who has a far greater palette for him to potentially paint on.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden