Scott ‘Wino” Weinrich will release his new album, Forever Gone this Friday, June 26th via Ripple Music. Now, I’m willing to wager that the majority of our readers are probably not familiar with Wino; as he’s affectionately known, despite his 40 years in music. You see, Wino is best known in the down-tuned, riff heavy, crushing musical genre known as Doom Metal. In fact, Weinrich is what many consider a godfather among the second generation of underground pioneers following in the large footsteps left by Black Sabbath and other heavy hitters of the 70’s. Wino is best known for his work as guitarist and front man of Saint Vitus, and more recently, The Obsessed. So, with that said, you’re probably wondering what in the hell does this have to do with Americana? Well, thanks for bearing through my brief history lesson. You see, the composition and presentation of the songs that fill Forever Gone are much closer in DNA to those of say, Townes Van Zandt than Heavy Metal. Weinrich achieves a melancholic acoustic heaviness, which in this stripped-down presentation is both unique and fascinating. This just might be your darkhorse album of the year that you never expected.
Forever Gone is Wino’s third solo album, and his first since 2012’s Heavy Kingdom, a collaboration with Conny Ochs. Two songs (‘Dead Yesterday’ and ‘Dark Ravine’) from that collaboration actually find themselves re-worked adroitly here. The album spans 11 tracks and 46 minutes, and finds Wino taking on his demons head on. There’s a sense of loss, and a vulnerability within these songs that just convinces you that the songwriter has been closer to the edge more than you’ll ever care to be. Thankfully, the album isn’t immersing exclusively into the darker depths of man’s frailties. There is a sense of hope ever present, and a primal urge to lick one’s wounds, adapt and overcome. The bluesy romp of ‘You’re So Fine’ in particular, brings a brief ray of light to an otherwise somber, but exhilarating point of the album. As the 7th track, the song is masterfully placed after the soul baring reflection of ‘Dead Yesterday’ (Ain’t it strange how life goes?). The song’s confident swagger deftly proceeds the beguile of ‘Crystal Madonna,’ and its darker truths. This trifecta of songs serves as a high point of the album’s progression.
What really jumped out at me through countless listens is the sonic benevolence of this project. The stripped down simplicity and production plays as important a role here as the events behind the songs. Even the songs that feature more of a full band feel; such as ‘Dark Ravine,’ and a brilliant cover of Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’ (which closes out the album) manage to radiate a warm and cozy atmosphere. Guitar aficionados will love the mix, as it undeniably showcases Wino’s guitar proficiency as well a dedication to getting that ‘sound’ that takes these songs up a notch. More than once, the mix reminded me of the prominent 70’s guitar sound of David Gilmour’s impeccable self-titled solo debut. Full and crisp, with every note played precisely and efficiently. But also, there’s the rawness and untamed aggression that reminds me of a young Joe Walsh. Again, Forever Gone creates a clever contradiction that many albums miss.
Lyrically, the songs are sincere and candid. Anyone that’s ever experienced addictions will feel the gut punch that is “Songs At the Bottom of the Bottle.’ Or, the immense pain of loss depicted with astute perception in ‘Taken.’ Vocally, Wino presents these songs in a true bard-like fashion with a voice that reveals a life well-lived while the presentation conjures visions of campfires tales, dangerous company, dark shadows, and darker intentions These songs seem born of both an engulfing inner turmoil and the inevitable realization of one’s guile weaknesses. But also present is a desperate attempt to pull away from that darkness with conviction. I don’t know for sure which side wins. Maybe neither, and maybe that’s the point. I guess I liked the prophetic nature of “Was is Shall Be” which finds Wino singing, To fall is not in design, and to stand is so crucial now.
With Forever Gone, Weinrich has presented one of those rare albums that seems to effortlessly bridge genres. It’s a release that will find itself resonating strongly with both Americana fans as well as fans of heavier music. Maybe, it’ll even serves like a welcoming pathway, encouraging a little musical exploration and expansion of those all too restrictive identities and prejudices. I really hope Weinrich is able to take these songs on the road sooner than later. These songs will be exceptional presented in their intended juxtapose of simplicity and complexity. Highly recommended.
Check out Wino’s home on the Ripple Music page for more information: https://www.ripple-music.com/bands/wino/