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Some of us into the doom and stoner genres say Scott "wino" weinrich is a legend of sorts. For example, we all say that. Wino though, while not busy being an underground hero for two decades running, is relentlessly trying to release his output through one band or another. First with The Obsessed, then lending his voice to some brilliant albums by Saint Vitus followed by Spirit Caravan till 2002 and then The Hidden Hand till August this year. He also collaborated with Victor Griffin on Place of Skull's With Vision album. His various bands have sounded different from each other, though still catering to the same niche and he also keeps evolving album to album during the course of each band both sonically and tonally. For instance, The Hidden Hand is more psychedelic and progressive than his previous bands and his guitar sound has evolved over the years.
Unfortunately for him and his fans, none of his bands have lasted for too long but the great thing about him is the fact that he keeps coming back and releasing albums that are nothing but great. He's now jamming with the guys from Om and Neurosis and it's definitely going to be something worth our while and more.
What we're going to deal with here is The Hidden Hand album called The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote released earlier this year. The album is loosely about this fictional character called Whiskey Foote, a first generation American who fought for his freedom and to defend himself and died mysteriously. I'm sure you can find your way to their website to get the complete story.
Beginning with serene bells and the cymbals and then with some sweet fingerpicked distorted chords, the short album opener Purple Neon Dream goes into the vocal lines with big drum grooves and Wino's typical fuzzy dark guitar sound in place. Someday Soon is a perfect demonstration of the Iommi-school 'devil's interval' with a slow evil riff signalling the more doomy direction this band has taken on this album. Wino just intelligently plays around with this riff for a little over three minutes leading us into Dark Horizon which kicks up a notch in pace showcasing great riffing, blues soaked blazing guitar solos and some amazing work behind the drumkit by Evan Tanner. The album, dear readers, has officially reached its peak.
Spiritually Bereft is another slow doom song with a great riff over the killer rhythm section and some tasteful vocals from the man. Observe how intelligently they kick the solo section in and return to the main riff to end the song.
The Lesson is one of the picks of the album for me. It has some really psychedelic influenced vocals over a classic riff before going into a heavier and faster riffing rampage for the chorus. Psych elements are thrown in throughout the song and especially the solo bit. It gave me chills when Wino played those high-notes-palm-muted-flourishes through the last chorus. I love it when he does that, I mean the fast palm muted licks almost close to the bridge of the guitar. Gary Moore and his disciples Vivian Campbell and John Sykes have played something like that a lot too, in totally different settings and styles of course.
Majestic Presence is the funky raspy rock n roll song with the power trio jamming the shit out of their respective instruments. There are those wailing wah drenched solos and some great interplay between the three. This is probably the song they stretch out when they play live and it even has this psychedelic feedback laden noise for a minute at the end of the song.
The title track is something else. It is a bloozy slow Southern Rock grind and when Wino shouts "Put the bullet back in the barrel, put the bullet back in your head, this is gonna be the last time last time" over the drum groove with guitars going start-stop, all I wanted to make this song perfect were some nasty slide guitars. And Wino gives you exactly that and lots of it. Fuck, what a boner moment.
Lightning Hill is an upbeat blues rock stomp with some smoking blues harp playing and some brilliant dirty guitar licks. It almost seems like a song from the late 60s with an updated guitar tone. Broke Dog begins with a gigantic drum roll with Bruce Falkinburgh's bass kicking in soon and then the guitars with some feedback followed by the fast stoner heavy riff that this song revolves around. This song stops abruptly for a couple of seconds, begins again and stops abruptly again for a reprisal of that drum roll that we heard in the beginning. Weird approach to songwriting but in the setting of this album and the song order, it works.
The Album closer Slow Rain is a phenomenal 7 minute doom epic that'll especially be remembered for the trippy harmonies in the middle followed by the jammy approach that's carried on till the end of the song with the epic guitar solo complete with that palm muted flourish I was talking about earlier.
The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote is a lot more doomy and less proggy than the previous albums by The Hidden Hand but it's undeniably Wino at his ever powerful best and undeniably an essential. Their previous and second album called Mother Teacher Destroyer edges this out a wee bit for me so I'm giving it a little lesser than the perfect score.
Taking a break from his gardening duties, a musician grabs his guitar, calls his 2 bandmates and enters the studio to write new songs. Wino's latest musical incarnation wakes up again and remembers old stories of his country, in the third installation of The Hidden Hand chapter, called "The Resurrection Of Whiskey Foote".
After the strict metal direction of "Divine Propaganda", the experimental "Mother Teacher Destroyer" and the straightforward attitude of "Devoid Of Colour", Wino's spirit remains restive, and creates again something different. This time, all the elements of his previous works are gathered in one album to make it the definite The Hidden Hand opus (so far). Am I joking? Not in any case. Only a musician of Wino's caliber could again surpass himself so ludicrously easily and "The Resurrection Of Whiskey Foote" is another proof of his endless talent that is responsible for this new accomplishment. It is exactly what we expected from an artist that doesn't care to bring the upside down in the world of music (although for some of us, he has done that already), but he is interested in evolving his own personal style and pushing the boundaries of his own musical realm. You can name it "doom rock/metal", "heavy rock", or whatever, but this is simply "Wino music".
The band's new (?) material balances simplicity with complexity, musical pluralism with a clear and unique identity, heavy riffs with psychedelic melodies, all within a strong moody atmosphere which comes straight from the old blues tradition that leaves its mark on every single second of the album. The compositional structure is completely unconventional and almost chaotic, helping the songs to build an unpredictable character that needs an in depth listening in order to be fully understood. The countless ideas and peculiar sounds provide on that too, again Wino's guitar playing is so deliriously inspired that you want to hit your head on a wall with what you are hearing. Completely unorthodox tempos are only a prelude to some serious six string outbursts, huge riffs lead to storms of fuzz and bizarre background melodies are transformed into trippy solos. The last important output is given by the rhythm section provided by bassist and co-singer Bruce Falkinburgh (also responsible for the album's production and warm sound) and drummer Evan Tanner. The architects of the album's groove lose touch with every norm and are driven to an uncontrollable course leaving the listener completely clueless of where this sonic ride is going to get him. We rarely come across such a stimulating rhythm section that often works independently from the guitar but also manages to be in harmony with it at the same time.
The Hidden Hand did it again. Away from any outside influence, focusing on a vision that is carried for years, Wino and co surpassed themselves again. Each time this artist gives us a piece of this vision, we must feel privileged. The grade is insignificant; after all, a Wino release is only comparable with another Wino release.