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Shaman conjures up mystical blend of hard rock and blues

In the early 1980s a new rock scene began in Maryland when Scott "Wino" Weinrich founded The Obsessed. Weinrich's guitar playing harkened back to the days of Hendrix; you just could not help but close your eyes and let the heaviness flow through you. The Obsessed brought together two clashing cultures in the DC/Maryland areas, the skinheads and the "long hairs."

Since then a plethora of hardcore bands have swept over the area, nearly drowning out the ghosts of Hendrix and Zeppelin. Weinrich continues to play, these days with Spirit Caravan, but he has tremendous back-up in the form of Sixty Watt Shaman.

Liner Notes
"Seed of Decades"
Sixty Watt Shaman
"Roll the Stone"
"New Trip"
Grade: A-

"Seed of Decades" is the Shaman's first semi-major label release and is produced by Larry "Uncle Punchy" Packer, who is most well known for producing for another Maryland rocker group: Clutch. In fact, Clutch drummer Jean Paul Gaster stepped into the production booth with Packer to record "Decades" and lends his considerable skill to the improvisational "I Been Down" on the record, while Clutch vocalist Neil Fallon steps in on "New Trip". The Montgomery County natives have often worked together in the past to wow audiences at concerts, and their work in the studio proves to be no less impressive.

Sixty Watt Shaman could be described as what happens when Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath all have children together. At times, "Seed of Decades" appears to be a blues album, but the next song will have a decidedly more metallic edge. "Roll the Stone," an acoustic track, is immediately followed by the heavy-handed growling of "One More Time." "Devil in the Details, Pt. 1" is a fast-paced journey through whining guitar riffs and hard-hitting rhythm, but "Details, Pt. 2" is a bass-heavy down-tuned piece of Skynyrd-esque Southern rock. You never know what's coming next.

This ability to change gears stems from the band members' incredible array of musical knowledge. Dan Kerzwick is one of the most incredible vocalists ever caught on tape; his voice is soulful on tracks like "Stone" while powerful and ear-splitting on the album's title track. Joe Selby lists Hendrix as his rock and roll idol, and it shows - he could quite possibly be hard rock's next guitar legend. He plays the slide like a blues veteran on "Fear Death By Water" and tweaks the strings to produce an earth-shaking solo riff throughout "Stones Throw Away."

The rhythm section is equally remarkable; Reverend Jim Forrester, who bought his priestly title on the Internet for a few dollars, works the bass with phenomenal speed and equally impressive power. Thanks to him every Shaman song thunders through the stereo system. Chuck Dukehart III, like Gaster, is a disciple of Zeppelin's John Bonham. His playing is understated but vital to the band's sound; he smoothly takes "Details" through its complete change in sound and puts the punch in "Rumor Den".

While some songs on "Decades" are poorly mixed and therefore awkward to listen to, (the vocals dominate the music on "Stones Throw" and "Busy Dyin",) the quality of the songs is undeniable. Tracks like "Poor Robert Henry" and "Fear Death" are instant rock classics waiting to be discovered, begging the question: just how good will Sixty Watt be by the time another album is recorded?

The music is full of soul and lifts the listener "up above the treeline," (as promised in "Roll the Stone") proving that hard rock can be so much more than heavy metal. This is heavy melody.