Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with Kirk Windstein

Kirk Windstein of Crowbar has always been a heavy hitter, but, man, the sludge legend is hitting harder than ever on debut solo album Dream in Motion. The record manages to be as crushing as the heaviest doom but as reaffirming as the greatest ’70s light rock. We have no idea how Windstein pulls this stuff off, but we know the album rules.

And to celebrate the release of the record, we caught up with the man to find out what five heavy albums are responsible for changing his life.

KISS – Alive! (1975)

When I was a kid, about 10 or 11 years old, a friend of mine from school lent me his KISS Alive! record. I had seen photos in magazines but I had never heard them. Needless to say, I was totally blown away by the look of the band, but when the needle hit the vinyl and the opening chords of “Deuce” came screaming out of my speakers, my life was changed forever. When I first heard Ace Frehley’s solo during “Deuce,” I had never heard a guitar sound like that ever before. I played the entire four sides of the album in one listening. I immediately asked my parents to get this record for me and I played it so much that I wore it out. I actually went through a few copies of it. Kiss Alive! is the single record that I have heard the most in my lifetime. To this day, I am never sick of it. I drive my wife crazy from watching live footage from this album on YouTube. I believe Ace inspired me more than any other guitar player. I dressed up like him using paper plates with the holes cut out to copy his 1975 uniform and would perform with a tennis racket as a guitar for my parents. This is the single most important album of my lifetime.

Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)

A few friends of mine back when I was a teenager, who also played guitar, told me about this amazing guitarist Eddie Van Halen. The first Van Halen song that I ever heard was on the radio, which was The Kinks cover called “You Really Got Me.” The solo for this song was pretty over the top compared to what I had been listening to. Of course, after hearing that song I was pretty excited to hear the rest of the record. A friend of mine bought it and said, “Oh my God! You need to hear ‘Eruption!'” I said, ‘Dude, I am coming by to listen to it!’ I rode my bike over to my buddy’s house and as soon as I walked in he said, ‘Let’s go listen.’ He skipped “Running with the Devil” and put on “Eruption.” Basically, my jaw hit the floor and I was in utter disbelief of what I had just heard. We both agreed that it was impossible for one guy to play all that at the same time, so we figured there had to be two guitar players in the band (later on we found out it was just Eddie). We listened to it again a few more times and then I listened to the rest of the album for the first time. I think I can speak for everybody in my age group that first heard “Eruption” by saying it was mind-blowing then, and 42 years later it is still mind-blowing. I got to see them five times with David Lee Roth and they were amazing!

Motörhead – No Sleep ’til Hammersmith (1981)

By 1981, I was on the eternal search for finding heavier and heavier music. An older guy from the neighborhood told me about a band called Motörhead. He said they were the loudest, fastest, rawest band in the world! I went and bought this album, and I must admit, at first listen, I thought they were too heavy [laughs]. It actually took me a while to appreciate how original and awesome Motörhead were. The first song that I fell in love with on the album was “Iron Horse/Born to Lose.” I eventually started listening to the record on a daily basis, and was obsessed with every song on it. Lemmy, although I had never heard anyone sound like him, became one of my favorite singers and still is to this day. Looking back at the No Sleep ’til Hammersmith album, it’s easy to see why they were such a big influence on the thrash scene. They had the “we don’t give a fuck” attitude, and because of Motörhead, I’ve had that same attitude my entire career.

Judas Priest – British Steel (1980)

If someone who’s never heard heavy metal asked, “What does heavy metal sound like?” I would say “JUDAS PRIEST BRITISH STEEL!” In my opinion, this album really started the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM). Even from a visual side, Rob Halford’s look and everyone in leather really set the standard for everyone in the metal scene. This was just fucking heavy! The opening track, “Breaking the Law,” was the first song that I heard off of this and, as simple as it is, it’s a true heavy metal classic. The way the album flows, it’s hard to turn it off. Each song makes you want more. Some of my favorite tracks are “Metal Gods,” “Grinder” and “Living After Midnight,” but the whole record is fantastic. Thinking of the guitar tone on the record, it had to be the heaviest thing that I had heard at that time. I remember thinking, “I want it louder!” The whole band was just a perfect blend of heaviness. When Rob Halford sang, it was just so intense! The production is so top-notch on this record and 40 years later it does not sound dated. I have a selection of Judas Priest favorites and it was very hard to pick one but I picked British Steel because I believe this particular album was the beginning of modern heavy metal.

Carnivore – Retaliation (1987)

Anyone who knows me knows that Peter Steele is one of my biggest influences. My introduction to Pete was with this album. This album really changed my life musically. It’s a perfect blend of metal/hardcore/Black Sabbath-style riffs. I had never heard a band tuned so low. That’s why Crowbar is tuned so low. A perfect example of this hardcore-meets-Sabbath crossover is track three, called “SMD.” We all know what that stands for! [laughs] The song starts out, Pete stops it and you hear a few clicks and it starts over. I always thought that was very clever of him to do. Nobody does that! The middle section of “SMD” is one of the heaviest breakdown parts that I have ever heard in my life. This album is a masterpiece, in my opinion. Listening to it is one body of work. I have never heard an angrier album. We all know that songwriters express themselves in their music but Pete seemed to make you feel the intensity when he sang. You could feel the rage with a bit of depression thrown in. As harsh as the lyrics are, they were a breath of fresh air compared to other bands’ lyrics, because these seemed like real pain and suffering, which other bands never seemed to write about. Songs like “Race War” and “Jesus Hitler” were very controversial due to the lyrical content but Pete simply did not give a fuck. The cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” is truly awesome, super raw and heavy as all hell! Carnivore were a stepping stone for Pete moving into his new band, Type O Negative. Any Type O fans that have not heard this album need to go and listen to it, it is Pete Steele at his most angry and aggressive point musically and lyrically. We all know that he struggled with depression, and I believe this album was a venting process for him. It seems that he just hated everything and everyone at this time. I surely do not hate everything and everyone but it felt good to hear someone releasing their pain lyrically. It had a strangely honest feel to it, although it was harsh. This led me to feel more comfortable writing about how I truly felt at the time, whether it was happy or sad.