Watch as the flame flickers deep in the corner of an empty room, the one you’ll find on the second floor just to the right of the stairs. The inhabitants, long gone, left only memories here; their ties severed from their hosts, they have dwelt here in a perpetual state of ruin, fading over time into the walls and floor. Watch as the flame dances in the blue-grey hue of the room as it illuminates the stories that once thrived here. The murmurs of a long dormant past emerge from the darkness, striking a chord you know too well. There is a comfort here, but it is not the place to linger in when the flame within you is dimly lit. But watch as it sways to the music, becomes the music, and, as the voice of Scott Weinrich fills the room with a sweet melancholia, feel every movement as the dulcet tones emanating from Forever Gone numbs the pain you’ve kept inside all these years.
For 40 years Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich has poured from the barrel of a life well lived into the drinking vessels of all those who would give him their ears. Spouting truths many willingly refuse to heed he has never shied away from laying out his words in black and white, with every word word hitting a nerve thanks to his distinctive croon; his is a voice which taps into this reservoir of experience as real as the ink which adorns his skin, where every lyric is one not written but endured. Here on Forever Gone, his third solo acoustic record, this couldn’t be any truer: from the get-go the record drips sorrow as an anguished tome of pain and loss, two things the doom legend has masterfully conveyed across the span of his career. The guitars may gently weep but their impact is powerful, for no matter how stripped-back the songs are the emotions they belt out are heavier than even the most fuzzed-out riff to emerge from the cellars as of late. Every chord, every string plucked, reverberates of the walls in this darkened chamber and, thanks to their harmonious marriage with Wino’s vocals, never cease to ripple through the whiskey-soaked air; when they land they sting as much as they envelope.
Such is the dual nature of Wino’s music, whether that’s in Saint Vitus or The Obsessed or any other project he features prominently. The songs are bittersweet, poignant, warm yet excruciatingly haunting – it is the same with the solace we find in booze, in solitary intoxication. And though you’ll immerse yourself with this in the morose deathrock of ‘Taken’ and the powerfully brooding ‘Lavender and Sage’, it is in the plummeting depths ‘The Song’s At The Bottom Of The Bottle’ takes you where the record’s gloom begins to take affect; a song as befitting of its title as you could imagine, it lingers long after the effects of this spirituous record begin to wear off. The heaviness doesn’t end here though: follow-up ‘No Wrong’ electrifies with a burning intensity that’d feel right at home on any Vitus record; and the penultimate ‘Was Is And Shall Be’ is a sombre, introspective meditation that feels all too real, tearing down the damn walls brick by brick until it cannot hold back the deluge – good luck trying to maintain those walls.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the surreal and out-of-place ‘You’re Fine’ and the glorious re-imagining of Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’, you’d be left to watch the candle flicker in the room until it burns out without a shred of a positive outlook. Just like the re-imagining of the Conny Ochs’ collaborations – 2012’s ‘Forever Gone’ and ‘Crystal Madonna’ and 2015’s ‘Dark Ravine’ and ‘Dead Yesterday’ – Forever Gone is the sound of a life trawled through hell and back, and whilst those songs sound all the better for the darker treatment they receive here, it only further drives home how heavy the record weighs down on the soul. The reverberations of a man leaving himself open and vulnerable, the ease of which you can lose yourself in a loop to understand on some deeper level is effortless. This is the gift of a true songwriter, the greatest of storytellers: to leave you in a deeper state of contemplation from whence you began to watch the flame, to leave you longing for that quiet in the madness. All you have to do at the end of the day is close your eyes and play the songs in your head.
Coming to you via Ripple Music.
You can buy and download the album here.
You can follow Wino here.