You have to wonder if Wino wakes up in the morning confused as to which hat he should be wearing on any given day. The man is a human dynamo, a non-stop workhorse of creativity and performance. From the straight up doom of St Vitus to the prog doom of his solo work to the post doom of supergroup Shrinebuilder to the acoustic doom of the “Adrift” album and now to his latest offering, a collaboration with former touring partner Conny Ochs…collaborative acoustic doom!!!!
Don’t be expecting walls of stun guitar or wailing solos. This is more of an extension of the “Adrift” album but is in no way to detract from the input of Ochs. This is every inch a collaboration with vocals, guitar playing and song writing split right down the middle. For those of you who were sceptical of the idea of Wino releasing one acoustic album let alone 2 within a year should put the prejudices aside as this is a raw, fractured, heartfelt album that draws from folk, Americana and blues as much as it does from Wino’s more obvious influences.
It turns out that Ochs is a real find. Despite the age gap between the pair, Ochs’ vocals display all the time worn emotion that Wino’s do and the pair have a natural, sympathetic way of allowing their own ranges to harmonise and weave around each other…much as they do with their guitar playing. In many respects Ochs is the stabilising influence that Wino needs in this type of musical world. Wino’s style can border on the random but Ochs brings it into sharp focus with his tight song writing style. Just listen to “Vultures By the Vine” for example with its chugging verse and soaring choruses that owe a great debt, albeit unwittingly I suspect, to the mighty New Model Army.
That this album hasn’t been overworked is one of its greatest selling points. Written and recorded when time allowed whilst on the road together, the songs are in their raw, basic state that displays the naked emotion that underpins the album as a whole. Any more tinkering with structures and production may well have killed the vibe. As it stands it is just enough, “Traces of Blood” shows Ochs folky tendencies but is backed up by some very subtle e-bow playing from Wino whereas “Heavy Kingdom” jam allows Wino to flex his solo chops without going over the top and keeping it within the loose bluesy framework of the song. On the other hand “Dead Yesterday” is a track that could have easily fallen from the Spirit Caravan tree if it were given the full band, fully amped treatment and shows that Wino’s style is so indelibly ingrained in his soul that it doesn’t matter what medium he chooses to vent his inner musical demons…Wino is still Wino.
There are times for certain when you need to step away from the noise and seek some peace and tranquillity and this is where “Heavy Kingdom” fits right in. It displays the same darkness and melancholy of the finest doom metal but with a delicacy of touch that sometimes can only be achieved by putting the amps into storage and stripping music back to its naked form.
27 January 2012 (Germany)
30 January 2012 (Europe + UK)
13 March 2012 (USA)
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall