Founding Crowbar member, grizzled veteran of the NOLA metal scene, and all around sludge legend Kirk Windstein makes his first foray into solo territory on debut album, Dream in Motion. Although known for slinging tar coated slabs of sludge and doom with his main band, Windstein embraces a decidedly less metallic mindset here. Not to suggest Windstein has completely abandoned his roots, as there’s still plenty of fuzz and heft amidst a reflective, melancholic mix of psychedelic-infused rock, dreamy balladry, elements of grungy alt-rock, and watered down traces of Windstein‘s sludge and doom roots. A long time servant of underground metal and a symbol of strength and resilience in the sludge scene, not to mention celebrated stints with Down, Windstein has more than earned the right to experiment outside familiar boundaries and do whatever the fuck he wants. But is he able to escape the shackles of his main projects and release a solo album worth a damn?
Dream in Motion features the trademark heart and soul that Windstein imbues into all the music he creates. The man could never be accused of doing things in half measures. His raw, honest and heartfelt emotions are front and center across ten dark, moody yet hopeful ditties, forming a musical detour from the sledgehammer heaviness that has defined his musical output over the years. However, Windstein‘s solid guitar work, knack for writing memorable riffs, and ragged yet soulful gruff croons, translate reasonably well into a more chilled, gently paced and melodic framework. Windstein pushes his vocals into increasingly melodic territories, wisely working within the confines of his limited range. The raw emotion evident in his delivery, and accompanying musical backdrop, lend extra weight to the delicate, gloomy vibe of “Necropolis,” and affecting, soul searching melodies of “The World You Know.”
The template is sound, steady and rather straightforward but its refreshing to hear a stalwart expanding beyond familiar boundaries at this later junction of his storied career. And while the song-writing may not reach lofty heights, it’s fairly consistent, solid stuff that bodes well for Windstein‘s future as a solo artist. Amidst some of the gloomy balladry and sluggish vibes present throughout the album, Dream in Motion‘s more lively, psych-doom rockers inject refreshing bursts of energy into the fray. The opening title track, with it’s simple groovy rhythms, solid guitar work, and engaging hooks, kicks the album off on the front foot. Slow building “Hollow Dying Man,” and the dreamy ebb and flow of “Enemy in Disguise,” showcase Windstein‘s contemplative moods within delicately crafted arrangements, featuring engaging melodies and psychedelic undertones.
Raising the tempo with a brooding mid-album rocker, “Toxic” gives the album a welcome boost, reinforced with Windstein‘s impassioned vocal, memorable riffs and solid wordplay. Windstein surprises, closing the album with an enjoyable, supercharged rendition of Jethro Tull‘s “Aqualung,” featuring top notch shredding and a strong vocal performance. However, while the album is absent in creative misfires, not everything hits the mark as strongly as the tighter numbers here. The song-to-song dynamics and at time sluggish pacing don’t always help the album to flow as well as it could. Dream in Motion struggles to reach truly gripping heights, but the dips are minor, and overall the album is solid fare, elevated by a handful of standouts.
Overall, Dream in Motion is a pleasant change in tact that yields solid results, without delivering anything especially groundbreaking. It’s a sound of a hard working veteran pushing himself creatively, and it’s evident that Windstein has poured his heart, soul, honesty and raw emotion into every note. Another Crowbar album would be welcome, but there’s enough on display to leave me eager to hear from Windstein‘s solo deviations in the future.