Scott “Wino” Weinrich has been a busy guy lately. Since the demise of The Hidden Hand in 2007, Wino has released a solo album, a solo acoustic album, an album with the super group Shrinebuilder, and he’s toured and recorded with the reunited Saint Vitus. Suffice it to say the world has not lacked for Wino music these past few years. And yet, Wino fanboy though I am, I remain vaguely unfulfilled. Though Punctuated Equilibrium had its share of pure, classic Wino, the bulk of the aforementioned projects present Wino in adulterated form, sharing the spotlight with others and / or exploring uncharacteristic (though not un-enjoyable) musical avenues. Wino’s new band, Premonition 13, is more of the same to the extent that it is the fruit of a collaborative effort between Wino and long time friend, guitarist/vocalist Jim Karow (along with drummer Matthew Clark). However, collaboration though it is, the band’s debut, 13, gives fans the strongest dose of Wino being Wino they have had in some time. 13 features Wino singing, playing guitar and performing the type of metal that made him a legend in his own time.
In his career outside of Saint Vitus, Wino has rarely recorded with another guitarist, the two most notable pairings being with Victor Griffin on Place of Skulls’ With Vision album and more recently with Neurosis’s Scott Kelly in Shrinebuilder. Of the two, Premonition 13 most resembles the former. Karow seems to come from the same Seventies-rock / early metal school of guitar as Wino and Griffin, and on the record Karow and Wino’s playing blends seamlessly. There are some moments of interplay between the two guitarists on 13, but for the most part, the duo functions as two Tony Iommis rather than Murray and Smith. The bulk of the vocal work on 13 is handled by Wino, but Karow does chime in for a line here and there and even takes the lead on one track. Karow’s voice is rather non-descript, but not unpleasant and his contributions do not at all detract from the proceedings.
While 13 features somber slabs of doom that would fit in comfortably beside material by The Obsessed (“Hard to Say”) and progressive, melodic material reminiscent of The Hidden Hand (“Senses”), the album has an enthusiasm and swagger that sets it apart from Wino’s other work. The tunes are bristling with the big, brooding, minor key riffs that one would expect, but nonetheless, one cannot help but get the sense — especially in straight-up rocking numbers like “Deranged Rock n’ Roller” and “Clay Pigeons” — that Wino and Karow are having fun.
A testament to 13’s diversity, the album’s two standout tracks could not be more different: One is a sprawling odyssey of light and darkness, and the other is simple stomping riff-rock. “B.E.A.U.T.Y.” wafts in on two minutes of meandering, vaguely melodic, synth-like guitar lines before there emerges what is unmistakably a Wino riff. Moments later the drums enter and rapidly build to a crescendo, at the height of which, the band drops the hammer on some big, fat, fuzzy power chords, bringing the song from distant and hypnotic to in-your-face and thundering. After a rousing couple of verses, “B.E.A.U.T.Y.” retreats to the atmospheric feel of the intro. When the thunder eventually returns, it is in a different form, slower and sparser in arrangement, making this nine-minute track effectively two songs in one. It comes as a bit of a surprise that 13’s most memorable track, “Modern Man”, features not Wino, but Jim Karow on lead vocals. Built from a handful of bruising power chords and a lead-heavy beat, “Modern Man” features a chorus more infectious than hepatitis and more tenacious than herpes.
These days, Wino seems to follow his muse whichever way it leads him, so whether Premonition 13 will be a one-off or a continuing endeavor remains to be seen, but I sure as hell hope for the latter. If you are a Wino fan, I do not need to tell you to buy 13, but for everyone else: 13 is a great doom album, buy it.