Band: Kirk Windstein
Title: Dream In Motion
Label: eOne Music
Release Date: 24 January 2020
Format Reviewed: Digital Stream
American comedian Tom Segura has been known to say to audiences, “If you don’t know who Big Daddy Kane is, you can go fuck yourself”. While I won’t be quite so abrupt, if you don’t know who KIRK WINDSTEIN is, your Sludge Metal education has a long long way to go, and you’ve got a big CROWBAR shaped hole in your life. On top of being the founder and driving force of those great legends on NOLA Sludge, the man was also a mainstay for many years in supergroup DOWN alongside Jimmy Bower, Phil Anselmo and Pepper Keenan, as well as having released music under the moniker of KINGDOM OF SORROW alongside Jamey Jasta of HATEBREED. After over 30 years of making and recording music, “Dream In Motion” marks the first release from KIRK WINDSTEIN as a “solo” artist.
The reason for the inverted commas above, is that this is no one man, acoustic project, along the lines of some of Steve von Till’s releases away from NEUROSIS, Kirk made plain in interviews prior to the release of this album, that a quieter, acoustic solo record was not what he had in the pipeline. That being said, if you come to this wondering “is this just another CROWBAR record in all but name?”, the answer is a definitive “No”. Even taking into account some of the more melancholic and melodic numbers from the band’s catalogue, like “The Lasting Dose” from “Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form”, or “Lifesblood” from “Lifesblood For The Downtrodden”, or “To Touch The Hand Of God” from “Equilibrium”, this is something of a departure and more understated and subdued than anything Kirk has recorded before. That being said, those already familiar with the less often mentioned melodic side of CROWBAR shouldn’t be too surprised to find Kirk releasing an album as far as this one is from the churning Sludge Metal that his reputation has been built on.
Opening with the single and title track, the first reference point might be the CROWBAR cover of “No Quarter”, from back in 1993 on their eponymous album, with a very similar, downbeat guitar line, before the song settles into a heavy, but subdued, mid-tempo beat, complete with grand, slow waves of overdriven guitars and Kirk’s vocals showing him at his most melodic. Here and on the next most obvious choice for a single, “Toxic” the dark, Metal, guitar lines, probably steer this record as close to Kirk’s main band as it gets. However these are probably the least appealing parts of the record for me. What’s actually more satisfying (in my opinion anyway), is where Kirk doesn’t seem to be throwing Metal fans a bone with some recognisable Metal riffing (which to my ears sounds most reminiscent of “Load” era METALLICA) and instead just crafts understated, mournful Metal ballads, which is really where most of this album sits.
In terms of instrumentation, this is heavy, downtuned, guitar driven Rock/Metal as you might expect. Some other instrumental flourishes add textures, but it’s really in the song-writing that the distinction between this album and Kirk’s past projects stands out. Tracks like “Once Again”, “The World You Know” and “Necropolis” show Kirk at his most effectively emotive, with some poignant melodies that almost soar at times, while remaining fairly understated all the while. Thanks to the sombre and low-key delivery throughout, the album never descends into Soft Rock balladry cliche, as it could easily do in the hands of a song-writer more prone to such things. No better example of this fine line being walked is penultimate track “The Ugly Truth” that in achieving some minor epic feel, would only take a small push to be somewhere in the real of an ‘80s KISS ballad, but instead sits as possibly the most satisfying and emotive track on the album. Instrumental “The Healing” is another notably emotive track, quite catchy and affecting. That Kirk is able to convey such strength of emotion without any words, shows what a talented, expressive musician and writer of music he is.
Elsewhere, there are allusions to OZZY OSBOURNE on “Hollow Dying Man” and final track “Aqualung”, both through some of the melodies and with Kirk’s vocal delivery. The former also has a strong feel of “Lifesblood For The Downtrodden” to it; while the latter incorporates an effective, melodic piano refrain, before progressing into a surprising, guitar driven ride-out, like some classic 70s Hard Rock, not a million miles away from LYNYRD SKYNYRD.
Lyrically there is a constant thread of the struggles of life and finding a way to move on, as well as references to coming to see negative people for who they are. Recent CROWBAR albums have seen Kirk sometimes move into a more spiritual mindset and while you wouldn’t call these songs upbeat, neither are they morose. It’s melancholic and reflective, but not miserable and not without hope, rather the understated sadness of looking back on some of the pain of life and carrying with you wherever you go.
All together “Dream In Motion” is an understated and well crafted album of subdued, sorrowful Hard Rock. The production is great and there is some subtle and affecting use of pianos and synths (I doubt they are real strings), helping to add the overall sense of poignancy. Though there are not so many in the way of big standout tracks, it’s a consistently well presented set of mournful, downbeat and emotive songs, not quite like anything Kirk has released before, but totally in tune with the musical legacy he’s built. 7.5/10 Tom Boatman
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