If legendary doom guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich has proven anything over the course of his career, it’s that he’s a fan of the trio. Between The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand and his Wino solo outfit, there’s obviously something about the chemistry of three players on stage and in the studio that holds great appeal. It’s a classic formula, anyway, and Weinrich is essentially a classic player in a rock sense, and on the heels of his successful Adrift solo acoustic offering and with new albums from Saint Vitus and the supergroup Shrinebuilder still nebulous on the horizon, he unveils Premonition 13, his latest trio band. The twist here is that it’s a four-piece. On their self-titled 7” single, released earlier this year, Weinrich handed bass as well as guitar and vocals, and he does the same on the follow-up full-length, 13, which is also issued by Volcom. Former Meatjack bassist Brian Danilowski (also of the droning Darsombra) was playing with them for a while, but that seems to have dissipated, putting Weinrich in the rhythm section along with drummer Matthew Clark as well as dueling it out on guitar with Jim Karow, whose longtime friendship with Weinrich seems very much to be the impetus behind starting the band.
Karow also adds vocals to Weinrich’s trademark style, and the two offset each other well. In that regard, Premonition 13 has something in common sound-wise with The Hidden Hand, in which bassist Bruce Falkinburg also contributed both lead and background singing in a similar fashion to what occurs with Karow on 13. Still, there’s no question that Premonition 13 is its own unit, and that it’s the double-guitars that make it so. Longtime followers of Weinrich will recognize many of the elements at play immediately – the downtrodden riffing, dynamic shifts, fire-red solos and Wino’s half-snarled/half-crooned singing – but just as people have different personalities, so do bands, and with so much to compare it to, 13 still emerges as somewhat unique within the context of the vast Weinrich catalog. A thread of strong songwriting emerges throughout the nine component tracks, and the two-guitar factor allows more room for the music to breathe, as Premonition 13 shows with subtle psychedelic flourishes in passing moments like the intro to opener “B.E.A.U.T.Y.,” the centerpiece interlude “La Hechicera de la Jeringa (Prelude)” and closer “Peyote Road.” 13 begins with a fade-up of e-bow guitar, giving an ethereal hum for the first two of the song’s total nine minutes (it’s the longest on the album; bonus points in my mind for putting it at the start), before the riffing starts and Karow and Weinrich trade off vocals to excellent affect, following the undulating riff to make the song both engaging and memorable in a way that’s no less so for being what you’d expect.
There are a few genuine highlight cuts on 13 – third track “Clay Pigeons” and the later, infectious “Modern Man” on which Karow takes the lead vocal come to mind most readily – but it’s important to note that Premonition 13’s first LP, is very much that: An LP. It’s structured into sides, and the flow from one song to the next is smooth and easy. In a way, “B.E.A.U.T.Y.” is a microcosm of the album itself, it’s grand, open-string ending sounding huge with Clark’s capable but not flashy drumming behind. Followed by the shorter, more driving “Hard to Say,” the tempo gets a kick and a highlight solo is provided, if one more deeply mixed than it might be on an album that doesn’t have two guitars. There’s another strong chorus that the verse seems to be in a hurry to get to (though maybe that’s just the impatient riff), but “Clay Pigeons” overwhelms its lead-in both in terms of execution and complexity. Weinrich and Karow infuse the back end of the song with some of 13’s best guitar interplay, and the long fadeout sets up the quieter “Senses,” which closes Side A in semi-ballad fashion, with a quiet verse and heavier chorus structure that repeats twice and leads to a bridge and chorus ending that works well. Like a lot of 13, it’s been done before, but is still a boon to the converted.
Side B launches with the aforementioned “La Hechicera de la Jeringa (Prelude)” that gives way to the track of the same name – minus that “Prelude” part; the title translates to “The Sorceress of the Syringe” – which is Premonition 13’s most directly Sabbathian moment. A highlight riff opens the way for a quiet verse and subsequent stomping chorus in the Wino tradition, and though on the CD version it’s easy to be lost in the overarching groove 13 has long since already established, taken on its own, “La Hechicera de la Jeringa” is a doomer’s delight. Twice as surprising, then, when the boogie rock of “Deranged Rock ‘n’ Roller” kicks in immediately following. Karow and Weinrich start off with some bluesy riffing and leads, and in no time flat, the latter is laying out what’s essentially a mission statement that could just as easily be taken as autobiography. “Deranged Rock ‘n’ Roller” is the most fun 13 has to give, and its three and a half minutes go quick (hell, the whole album goes quick), but the song is as well paired with “Modern Man” as Weinrich is with Karow, the second delivering yet another choice riff — where they keep coming from is anyone’s best guess – as Wino takes a back seat, vocally, filling out the chorus behind Karow, who brings forth catchy runs of “Modern man, modern man/Get my dinner from wherever I can” (you can already set the rhythm in your mind just from reading it) and variations on those lines involving both promised lands and garbage cans to make the song among the album’s most staying. If there’s long-term potential in Premonition 13, it’s in a song like “Modern Man,” which shows that there’s more to the band’s ethic than simply being another Wino project.
And in many ways, it’s unfair to classify these bands as “Wino bands.” That’s what they end up being, but it rarely does justice to the other players who contribute. Karow is essential to pulling off 13 as well as Premonition 13 does, and though the drums are hardly a focal point throughout the record – it’s a guitar album front to back – Clark does a decent job in letting the string section breathe as necessary. It’s impossible to know at this point if Premonition 13 will be the band that sticks, or if they’ll add a permanent bassist, or if they’ll even put out another record with Weinrich’s schedule so full of what are, frankly, higher-profile projects, but Wino fans have much to revel in on 13, the mostly instrumental closer “Peyote Road” echoing “B.E.A.U.T.Y.”’s opening as the album winds down in appropriately lysergic fashion. It’s a quality offering, and though Premonition 13 will for many listeners just be another line on the CV to end all CVs, the band has much about it that’s its own, and it’s those factors that most warrant repeat listens. Summer’s well met here.
Tags: Premonition 13, Volcom, Wino