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I’m very pressed to give an accurate description of the guitar sound that Kirk Windstein uses because it is so unique and yet so versatile in its usage.
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In his work with Crowbar, Kirk Windstein favors a guitar tone that is built around a high volume gain saturation, the presence of which causes it to have a very brittle break in its pattern of distortion as if the notes were crackling out into a thousand tiny needles. For a time, Kirk used Peavey guitars, specifically one of the PXDs (I think it was the Void but I can’t quite remember) as he was able to secure them on the recommendation of Dave Elefson. To serve this, Kirk’s playing style pushes this high volume sound, using it to create a sort of natural reverb from chord to chord and plays against the other guitar to create these multiple layers of sound.
In Down he uses a more varied set-up, including a trans cherry ESP Eclipse, a white Fender Stratocaster, a Gibson Voodoo SG (I would really really really like to own one of these) and an SG Gothic.


When I listen to this, I often think of it as the sound of rusty metal being dragged across itself, this intense peaked feeling just on the right side of collapsing into total dissonance.
For amps, Kirk uses Randall RG100ES amps, though I saw him use a Dean Dime amp when I saw them live which I understand to be based on that Randall. So much of the pleasure of listening to it comes from hearing the little peaks in frequency from treble to bass, tracing the elaborations of tension through the intensity of the rawest of guitar sounds. Little things like hearing slides on the strings, the sound of the coils being rubbed just barely audible through your speaks or the decay of a chord left to feedback against the amp become statements about letting the sound fall into total chaos. For pedals, he seems to like Maxon, having an OD808 at the top of his rig, along with a Boss Metal Zone Distrotion, a MXR Phase 90, a MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay, a Dunlop Slash Signature Wah and a EHX Small Stone Phaser. Kirk is so good about the way he chooses chords to stand on there own, usually allowing the end of a passage or a passage in total just be one ringing chord that ripples in this melting gain, those moments that capture your attention because they manage to stand so fully with so little. At other times he executes these wonderful, yet slowly passed runs up the fretboard that just bleed into one another but manage to break off just enough so you can follow the way in which his playing is being executed. When Crowbar’s songs reach a faster pace this type of organized anarchy reaches out to our ability to assimilate chaos, forcing us to either give into the visceral reaction of heavy metal at its most primal or simply let it fall away. On the most recent record I feel as if we began to hear his style come out more fully in their music, yet he manages to balance that with a decided bent towards the psychedelic.


While Pepper holds down the leads, Kirk is left to explore the space with riffs that seem to take on a mystical force, using either wah or phase to give a demented wobble to the sound built around those dank riffs that come from the style.
When he does open in a lead, his work is slow burning, rising like smoke against the dynamically fast Pepper and giving a nice pace changing interweave, filling out the sound and giving space to grow. When he does hit full speed it is astounding, because we are so thrown off by what we’ve been expecting from his typical playing only to hear his normal heaviness brought to a technical excess. Much of Kirk’s playing is so indebted to his influences, with musicians like Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page coming to mind when listening to him.
Yet, Kirk will always stand on his own as a master of making a truly heavy music, one that feels like you have to sift through all the wreckage of the riff to find the heart of dissonance made beautiful.



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