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After the ambitious mishmash of styles that was XCIII, SWA's previous album, Winter is a more focused and generally better release. While there is no single track that approaches the hard rock genius of "Arroyo" from that album, the band sounds tight and together, and excellent vocalist Merrill Ward was given some very good material. Phil VanDuyne was a less-flashy guitarist than Sylvia Juncosa, but his gutsy playing fits the dynamic of the band much better. The song structures are complicated enough to be interesting, the driving rhythms and lyrical intelligence of most tunes making them suitable for listening or headbanging. There are some real winners here, most of them hard, fast rockers like the back to back "Wastin' My Time" and "Chances Are." Overall, Winter was a solid album, the one where SWA seemed to know just what they wanted to do and how to do it.

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