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Sludge In Its Purest Form - 90%

dystopia4, May 6th, 2013

With their self titled sophomore, Crowbar refine the sound they created on their debut. On Obedience Thru Suffering, Crowbar mixed doom and hardcore, being one of the first bands to do so. Inarguably one of the pioneers of sludge, this release shows Crowbar improving upon their sound in just about every way imaginable. It isn't at all a divergence from the template they previously laid out, just a more calculated version of it. The vocals are improved, the songwriting more focused, everyone's better at their instruments and the production is more developed, while still retaining it's dirty feel. Although certainly not Crowbar's crowning achievement, this is where they fully start sounding like themselves.

When I say this is where they fully started sounding like themselves, I don't mean that the debut didn't sound like the Crowbar we know, it's just the first album was an undeveloped idea of what they would become. While very good for the raw fount of unbridled aggression and misery that it was, the template they laid out was not yet fully realized. While they would later expand and experiment upon it, this is the core of what Crowbar is about. Whisky tinged bellowed vocals, fantastic riffing that often blurs the lines between doom and hardcore, great to the point drumming and dirty bass lines - the foundation is all here and executed to a high degree.

While on the debut, Kirk's vocals where at their rawest and most unrestrained, here his singing shows development beyond bursts of anger. They feel full, powerful and perfectly convey the negative emotions he is trying to get out. While roaring out "This world's hard, it's cold, it's agony" on "Existence Is Punishment", it is readily apparent that he stands fully behind what is coming out of his mouth. Though there are some hardcore inspired bursts, the guitar is generally played at a slower pace. The riffs are consistently of quality and filthy breakdowns are plentiful. When the bass gets it's time in the spotlight, such as in the beginning of "Fixation", it's dirty tone shines through. The drumming as well, is much tighter than on the first offering.

The songs are consistently good, but some such as "High Rate Extinction", "All I Had (I Gave)", "Existence Is Punishment" and "I Have Failed" tend to stand out as particularly well crafted songs. Their cover of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter" is especially intriguing. It by no means surpasses the original, but I really don't think anyone expected it to. And besides, how the hell is a band supposed to go about outshining a classic band on their own song when it's quality is of such colossal magnitude? The original No Quarter is an absolute classic, in both it's songwriting and it's otherworldly psychedelic instrumentation. Crowbar do not attempt to replicate it, opting to make the song their own. They omit any traces of psychedelia, stripping it down to a more basic (and obviously heavier) form. They are highly successful at this - it stands as one of the high points of the album.

With their second coming, Crowbar distill their sound into what would become the essence of their sound. This shows improvement on all fronts and remains a thoroughly worthwhile listen. Kirk writes for the downtrodden and the hard living. He writes of the times when life gets the better of you and you feel like you are at the bottom of the barrel. This release is drenched in hardship. If metal ever had an answer to the working class blues, this would be it. This captures much of the themes prevalent in sludge, as well as providing the perfect example of what sludge sounds like in it's purest form.

The times were changing... - 87%

Seducerofsouls85, July 9th, 2011

Crowbar are a band that I fall in and out of love with depending on what album we are talking about, and there are some works by Kirk Windstein which are better left ignored by this listener. However I haven't gone out of my way to bash the album that started the whole sludge emergence, throughout much of America's deep south. I remember when doom metal with the likes of Candlemass or Saint Vitus, was a genre nobody thought was a force to be reckoned with. Then all of a sudden this doom-core, around 1993 started making waves and people were calling it the saviour of American heavy metal at a time of grunge and cardigan wearing guitarists. Although this sure beats listening to "Spoonman" by Soundgarden or what have you, I think people need to realize this was a long time coming, an evolution starting at the mid 80's, long before the inception of doom and hardcore together, the sands were already shifting. But I will spare you the history lesson, and let's talk about this album at hand.

Kirk Windstein's bipolar whiskey charged vocals work wonders on this album, and at the very least he sings about the negatives without making it sound like he's having a party. The riffs are generally slow and crushing, but are a bit more faster in tempo in places such as the renowned "All I had I gave". "High rate extinction" starts out with a chugging slow section of riffs, followed by the down-trodden first couple of verses. It is kind of short and repetitive but very efficient at introducing the album. If you're in any doubt what to expect by now, then you're probably drooling onto the cd case smiling at all the pretty colours. They do a heavy cover of Led Zeppelin's "No quarter" and amazingly pull it off. I love the original don't get me wrong, but I just was not expecting Crowbar to actually make a Led Zeppelin song their own. "Existince is punishment" and "Holding nothing" shows more in the way of melancholy sludgy riffing, and although it never breaks the tempo range too much, the tracks are extremely infectious. This album is heavy man. People mistake heaviness with extremity. But when I'm talking about heavy, I'm talking about the likes of Candlemass or more recently Electric Wizard. This album delivers in the heavy department, and still keeps metallic sentiments in mind without going fuzzy and off the beaten track. "Obedience thru suffering" may have been their first, but their sophomore gave them a higher platform to grab our attention from. They may have gotten more exposure in part of Phil Anselmo producing this thing, which is a good thing considering this album is worthy of mass exposure.

The Rising of Sludge - 82%

JamesIII, January 9th, 2010

Since the inception of sludge metal in the late 1980's, it was only a matter of time before it ever arose to demand attention. In 1991, the movement's two heads in eyehategod and Crowbar released their debut efforts, but neither one made any waves and were basically local releases that got little to no attention. The year 1993 proved to be a good year for the scene, as both bands released efforts that got them noticed, though this also came with a good helping hand of scene fanatic and inner circle member, Phil Anselmo. Thanks to Pantera's success of the time, Anselmo was able to display this scene to the masses. Good thing, as much of the 90's was overwrought with poor musical ideas and the emergence of heavy metal in the Southeast United States, properly known as "sludge," is one of the very few highlights of this era.

For Crowbar, who arguably is the most accessible of these bands, 1993 was the year their self-titled release became available. After the solid but unnoticed "Obedience thru Suffering," this band came roaring back with something similiar, but better by most means. The songs this time around are better, as is the sound quality which is quite honestly one of the best of any early sludge band. Their sound remains in tact, slow and bleak Black Sabbath tribute with a dense tone that sounds like an enormous sludge covered creature rumbling forth at a slow pace.

Anyone remotely knowledgable of this band will certainly be able to spell out what to expect here. The music isn't complex nor calculated, its mostly reliable sludge/doom metal with traces of some hardcore moments and bellowing vocals. If any of that appeals to you, or you'd like to hear a heavier version of Sabbath with a barrel chested bearded axeman on vocals instead of Ozzy Osbourne, then this might just be for you.

The problem with this album is that many of these songs sound alike. I don't particularly view this as an immense negative, since none of these songs are actually that bad. The "No Quarter" cover is the least of these, but its still a decent listen. "High Rate Extinction" and "Self-Inflicted" are shorter, but never really establish themselves very well. They're mostly there and then they're gone. Still, I couldn't find a bad song out of these, but I did find a number that will make Crowbar and more traditional doom fans happy.

"All I Had (I Gave)" is one of the most well known songs by this group. Its first few moments are packed with more up-tempo (but not insanely fast) hardcore styled aggression, but the endurance of this doesn't last and it drops off into more slow territory. Crowbar are catchy when they pick up the pace, but they work best when they keep it slow and heavy enough for this album to crush you like an insect beneath Kirk Windstein's boot. "Will That Never Dies" is more "classic" Crowbar most people associate with the band. "Existence Is Punishment" is particularly good, a longer number but in no way bad. It shows off more of that dark yet charming side to this band. My personal favorite is "I Have Failed," which I'm none too sure what Crowbar failed at but it wasn't in making a damn good song out of this. It bears more of a haunting aura to it than anything else on this album in particular. Such atmosphere would return on subsequent releases, like the title track to "Time Heals Nothing," "Nothing" off "Broken Glass" and so on. Of these, "I Have Failed" is best and one of the very best this band has done. It just works on all levels.

The year 1993 was a good for Crowbar and sludge in general. This album has since gone on to sell a very impressive 100,000 copies (yes its impressive, an obscure band from an obscure genre releasing on an indy label, we can't all be Creed, now can we?) Considering none of their peers accomplished this, and with little to no airplay, I salute this band. In any event, Crowbar fans lacking this are lacking one of the band's better albums. In terms of pure quality, I'd rank it below "Time Heals Nothing" and "Odd Fellows Rest" but above "Broken Glass." I would put it on par with "Lifesblood for the Downtrodden," though I havn't heard everything off that album so it isn't a completely legitimate comparison. Yet if you're looking to get into sludge, this is a safe bet. Its far easier to get into than anything eyehategod was doing on "Take As Need for Pain" or what North Carolina members Buzzov*en were up to. Still, accessible doesn't mean its not satisfying to fans for this is slow but heavy stuff. Recommended to all Crowbar fans.

The Epitome Of Doomcore - 98%

Warpig, August 17th, 2007

Once upon a time, boys and girls, some people had the idea to start a little TV channel that should have been only dedicated to music. All the musicians loved the idea and told the people at home that they should demand their MTV. Little did they know that this cute little music channel would become probably the worst thing that had ever happened to music, a monster that would try to destroy everything that was good about music, just like Rolling Stone had tried before.

Although the only good thing about this channel was the Headbangers Ball, the people at MTV seem to have tried their best to hide this show from the public by airing it at the worst time possible. I guess it was in '94, when watching this show, when the most pissed off looking guy suddenly screamed at me through my TV, telling me "My days and nights now are solitude", "I've paid my price" and "All I had I gave". After seeing that video I knew two things: Firstly, that I didn't want to change with that fella for all the money in the world, cause his life must have been hell and secondly that I had to get this CD as soon as possible.

When I finally got to this album it was actually quite a letdown, because what I expected was something like a Hardcore band, but what I experienced was my first encounter with Doomcore, and at first, it sounded to me as if this band was playing breakdowns during the whole album. No wonder, because even if Crowbar upped the tempo a bit ("All I Had", "Self-Inflicted") they would do it for just over a minute before coming to a screeching halt, and sometimes they would even do breakdowns in already pretty slow songs ("Negative Pollution")!

Apart from that breakdown and also great verses "Negative Pollution" yet is, besides "Holding Nothing", the only song that is just not quite on par with the rest, because all the other songs are basically perfect: "All I Had" has probably become the embodiment of Doomcore, "No Quarter" is one of the best cover versions of all time (not only because it is fantastic as it is, but because it completely destroys the original!) and "Existence Is Punishment" was the second video and the second "hit" of that album - slow and heavy, but melodic and highly memorable ("I gave my heart and soul to you, my friend…"), including one of the best bass intros ever.

"High Rate Extinction" should be mentioned as well, as the vocals were recorded in stereo, so that it sounds as if two Kirks would yell at you from both sides (as if one wasn't enough) and if you have finally worked your way through the album, the intense "I Have Failed" will give you the rest. The last thing you hear on this album is Kirk screaming "I have motherfuckin' faaaiiillleed!!!" and you really ask yourself if even all the drugs in the world could make this guy happy...

There seem to be not too many Doomcore bands around, and I think an important factor is, that this kind of music can become very boring very fast, if a band doesn't have the necessary songwriting skills. If you play that style well, however, it enables you to create REALLY heavy music, as it combines the brutality and the aggression of Metalcore and the heaviness of Doom, and Crowbar achieved that on this album in perfection.

Everything about this album is just as good as it gets: the ton-heavy riffs, Kirk Windstein's voice that really sounds as if he would carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, Craig Nunenmacher's brilliant, because highly creative drum work, the congenial depressing lyrics and, last but not least, Phil Anselmo's by all means perfect production job (this album remains Crowbar's best produced - especially the drum sound is so much better than on any of their other albums that only "Time Heals Nothing" at least comes close to this)!

After this album, Crowbar would go on to record more diverse albums and also many of their best songs (e.g. "Odd Fellows Rest" including "Planets Collide"), but they would never be able to top their eponymous album from 1993 and so, this remains their masterpiece up to this day.

The best of the slugs - 72%

HangThePope, September 24th, 2006

If there's one Crowbar album you have to get, the only answer is the self titled from 1993. The best presentation of their trademark sound thanks in no small part to good production duities from KVLT Black Metal Lord, Anton Crowley (Phil Anselmo lol). Nothing here is orgasmicly amazing, but it's a nice little blast if you want some neat, slow and crushing metal with lyrics to savour when life's kicking you in the gonads and stealing your wallet.

Crowbar's sound is a different take on the sludge that emerged in the wake of the Melvins. Bands like Eyehategod relied on a more gritty, messy assault with deathy vocals which draws more from punk & hardcore in the lack of concern over the technicality of their instruments. Crowbar's sound, certainly on here, is structured with slow, punchy riffs and vocals, which like Beavis and Butt-head best noted, sound like "He's having trouble defecating"!! They aren't just bowel induced tho and Kirk "beast of a man" Windstein can show a nice melodic and emotive streak in certain songs, like the quiet laments on tracks like the Zeppelin cover, "No Quarter" and "Holding Nothing".

The drummer is another positive here as whilst he isn't Dave Lombardo, he uses the drums subtely and deftly with nice touches with a great piercing echoey atmosphere to them which just stands the hairs on the back of the neck.

The perseverance themes of their music combined with the slow, meaty riffs are the biggest attraction, however. Windstein wails about hardships such as being deserted by women and loneliness but always couples the laments with rants of defiance and self belief. A far cry from the "hate myself and want to die" vibes of a band like Nirvana. You hear that Kurt? This is a real man. With testicles you can actually dig you way out of life's hellholes but you were always doomed with your affection for the beatles and cardigans.

Anyways, enough mocking of the deceased. I digress, the best tracks I would go for here are "All I Had(I Gave)" and "Existence Is Punishment" as they have the most variety with changings of tempos and mood. The rest tends to be quite one dimensional a lot of the time, remember this is Sludge so there's no solos, with heavy reliance on the riffs which most of the time do feel like a piano landing on top of you but most of the time show they're the the only real thing they have in their artillery.

Not a spellbinding album but if you want some no frills, slow and crushing metal. Crowbar's the name.