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Album Review: TBA

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Album Review: Premonition 13 - 13

Pepper Keenan (, ) once labelled lead vocalist/guitarist Wino as the “quintessential lifer.” It’s an odd analogy that makes him sound like his time in the music business has somehow imprisoned him. Surely it’s much the opposite – that making his music sets him free. He’s not exactly breaking rocks here, although many of his fans might make their own analogy from that sentence alone. You can see where the term comes from though. His biography certainly speaks like a who’s who of stoner rock with bands like , and to his name. But, look a little closer and you can see he stands at a crossroads of a number of genres – psych, doom, stoner and good old fashioned rock n’ roll. His more recent projects have seen him breaking out on his own as well as rubbing shoulders with the good and the great – artists like Dave Grohl, Scott Kelly, Al Cisneros, Dale Crover, Geezer Butler, Rob Halford, the list goes on. Now, he arrives at the point where he’s juggling and commitments, starting up his own solo career, and now he’s also decided to join forces with guitarist Jim “Sparky” Karow to stir up some of his more deep-seated passions with .

The juicily cryptic band and album titles, the artwork (an animal skull wrapped in a Native American head-dress), knowing that they recorded this under the hot sun of a desert studio and the fact that is a project that was borne from the main protagonists bonding over a love of ancient cultures and “Mesoamerican stuff”, all suggest that the lyrics would be loaded with words regaling tales of sacred practices and/or the occult. That aspect is there in a couple of tracks but mostly the songs tend to cover subjects that instead relate to the troubled times of society today. “B.E.A.U.T.Y.” points out that the “the doors of Humankind are shutting on your fingers” and “Modern Man” simply warns “Mankind beware, you’ll reap what you seed.” There are also more personal messages like Wino’s cracked voice intoning the words we always expected him to say – “When it’s my time to go away / I wanna die sweatin’ on stage.” Attach onto the back of these lyrics, the fact that we’ve also got “Hard To Say” lurking on here, a cover of a Lethal Intent track, and you can see all may not be quite as it first appears.

It’s great that drummer Matthew Clark and bassist Brian Daniloski have helped beat two decades of jam sessions into shape. Lord knows how lengthy some of these tracks might have been without their input. Make sure you focus on how Karow and Wino’s guitar parts intertwine around each other, like they belong together, for the lingering opening to “Clay Pigeons”, or Clark’s tribal drums on “Peyote Road”, or the burbling bass grunt that lodges itself deep into sections of “B.E.A.U.T.Y.” – with so much space left around each instrument, there are moments of delightful tranquility and moments of true hammering power. There’s a large wedge of drone ripping the heart of the music along and much of ’s blues-streaked majesty (both Wino’s suggestions) dragging the soul into play too. Then there are tracks like “Modern Man” and “Deranged Rock N’ Roller” that just plain rock; tracks that sound more like they come from the brain of fellow “lifer” Lemmy Kilmister; tracks that lie at the pivot-point between his work with and .

Wino gets to use lots of his warm, wobbling E-bow throughout the album. The intro to “La Hechicera de la Jeringa” (that roughly translates as “The Sorceress Of The Syringe”) gets a large dose of it. This, and “Peyote Road” do fall into line with those original expectations, but it’s “Senses” that wins the day. Criminally short, but head-swimmingly psychedelic, it blossoms into life with an open chord that is left to echo while yawning bass notes are met by a floating, paper-thin lead solo. Over the top of it all, Wino’s gritty vocal is injected with enough reverb to cause it to split and scatter across several aural planes. It may only be three minutes long but every second of “Senses” puts you into yet a deeper state of relaxation.

In the main, there is a quite a healthy overlap with Wino’s other bands here (it’s kind of -lite to the point where you’re almost expecting ’ Scott Kelly’s mighty roar to burst forth) so, if you were down with any of his former bands, 13 comes highly recommended. If you’re new to Wino’s back catalogue, I’d stick to making sure you check out ’s self-titled debut first – it’s debatably the finest work of his career. Whatever, you decide, know that this is the work of a legend. The man turns 50 this year. He’s been churning out music for 35 of them. He’s most definitely the quintessential lifer.

Also online (with samples) @ The New Review =

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