Wino Punctuated Equilibrium

[Southern Lord; 2009]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: blues-based hard rock
Others: Saint Vitus, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple

Branded as stoner metal's guitar hero, Scott "Wino" Weinrich has a lot to live up to on the first album to bear his — and only his — name. Teamed up with producer J. Robbins, Clutch drummer Jean Paul Gaster, and Rezin's Jon Blank on bass, those expectations only get bigger.

And largely, the former Obsessed and Saint Vitus centerpiece doesn't disappoint; Punctuated Equilibrium is a riff-heavy and easy-to-listen-to platter of bluesy proto-metal. Wino's guitar playing is so fluid, his riffs so naturally momentous that the technical heroics seem an afterthought or accident. We hear the effects of his fingers running hurdles on the fretboard, but it rarely comes off as flashy or ostentatious. It gives the record a feeling of classicism — as though you could (or should) hear Wino playing next to Deep Purple on an FM "classic rock" station. Here, though, decades of blues-based hard rock coalesce into a full-bodied force of hard rock purity that ought to run devoid of hyphenated modifiers (says the guy who in the same paragraph refers to this as "proto-metal"). Generally, the record is a consistent and concise platter of mid-tempo riffs and throaty vocals.

Only "Gods, Frauds, Neo-Cons and Demagogues" hinders that consistency, and in doing so becomes a disfiguring blemish on an otherwise good LP. Its political-commentary-via-soundbite approach doesn't mesh all that well with the attempted atmospherics in Wino's guitar backing. Ultimately, it comes off as dated and unnecessary, especially next to nine cuts each with its own singular identity within the album's uniformly well-defined sonic template. Wino is best when he's playing heavy, not heavy-handed. Save for the one glaring misstep, Punctuated Equilibrium doesn't disappoint.

1. Release Me
2. Punctuated Equilibrium
3. The Woman in the Orange Pants
4. Smilin' Road
5. Eyes of the Flesh
6. Wild Blue Yonder
7. Secret Realm Devotion
8. Water Crane
9. Gods, Frauds, Neo-Cons and Demagogues
10. Silver Lining

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