Recording information: Kabumm Studio, Berlin (08/10/2011-08/12/2011).
Photographer: Steffi Schatte.
Those who thought legendary hard rocker Scott "Wino" Weinrich's 20l1, largely solo acoustic album Adrift was a one-off, or ever gave his Mainstream labelmate German singer/songwriter Conny Ochs a shot, will more than likely be taken with Heavy Kingdom. The duo decided to record an album together after meeting and sharing a touring stage: Ochs was supporting his aptly titled Raw Love Songs; Wino was promoting Adrift. There are no other musicians on Heavy Kingdom. Just Wino and Ochs on guitars and vocals; all songs but one were co-written. Most of these guitars are acoustic. That said, this is heavy music. Wino attacks his acoustic with his trademark gritty flourish. Ochs has a lighter touch, but complements his partner beautifully. The songs are dark and melancholy, but are too aggressive and frank to be sad. The opener "Somewhere Nowhere" is a clear winner, with its strident guitar chugging and the effortless blend of voices. The guitar interplay on the title track, with its open-tuned bluesy drone fronted by Wino's grainy vocal is another. "Vulture by the Vines" contains Wino's electric behind Ochs' acoustic, and their duet vocal is mixed on par with the guitars. The lone cover, Townes Van Zandt's "Highway Kind," is nearly as devastating as the original. The pair sound as if they're looking at a burned-out world while traveling by motorcycle. The track would have made a great addition to the soundtrack for Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road. The desolation in Wino's voice in "Here Comes the Siren" is total; it approaches the prophetic apocalyptic wail of Jim Morrison's. When his electric guitar creeps into the backdrop along with Ochs' backing vocal, it's as if the horizon itself disappears in shadow. Even a straightforward love song such as "Traces of Blood," with Ochs' most melodic singing, is colored by the tinges of Wino's sparse but effective electric guitar with touches of country, blues, and spooky folk. For its spontaneity, directness, and stripped-to-the-bone intensity, Heavy Kingdom could have been recorded in the early to mid-'70s (the sly guitar quote from Neil Young's "Ohio" in the album's lone instrumental, "Heavy Kingdom Jam," doesn't hurt either). That said, the simple fact that it was recorded in the 21st century makes it somehow more profound. It feels timeless. Heavy Kingdom is the sound of the depths, it comes from stubbornly following the road no matter where it leads. Hopefully, more records from these two are forthcoming, they are a natural match. ~ Thom Jurek