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CROWBAR's debut full-length release came to be hailed as one of the band’s defining albums and in the end as one of the definitive works in the history of sludge metal. Now two decades after "Obedience Thru Suffering" was first released, CROWBAR is bringing fans back to the nostalgia of the old days by re-releasing this gem, propelling the old crowd into a pool of contentment and new listeners into a flash of the history of sludge.
Although many critics and fans alike do not acknowledge "Obedience Thru Suffering" as being CROWBAR's best release, the album still holds an immense place within the history of the genre with the importance it brought with its new style. "Obedience Thru Suffering" is to sludge metal what "Kill ‘Em All" is to thrash metal. Forget hinting, forget subtleties, forget “stylistic influences and experiments”, "Obedience Thru Suffering" was full-on sludge. The band masterfully combined the sounds of doom metal and hardcore punk, producing a record unlike any the music world had encountered before.
What CROWBAR managed to do that set them off from bands playing doom metal and hardcore punk was not immediately identifiable. What kept people from saying that this is just a slowed down version of death metal or a more riff-based version of doom metal? The answer is simple. CROWBAR knew exactly how they wanted to be different; they married the sounds of all their influences together and added a kick of true grit into the execution, never compromising the exact atmosphere and mood they were aiming for and never compromising the musicality and style they were so good at bringing out. The riffs are refreshingly simple, yet heavy and crunching and solid to the core. There is no question that the craft of riffing is safe and evergrowing in the very capable hands of Kirk Windstein, whose riffs are all given a meditative and atmospheric edge that adds to the pensiveness of sludge metal music.
This is an immense first release for a band that would go on to become one of the legends of sludge. Despite sludge being a slow-paced genre, there is no shortage of extreme aggression and anger with tracks such as “Waiting in Silence” and “My Agony” being such fierce examples of the band’s character, with band members all putting tasteful and graceful flavour into music that overflows with personality and reflection.
While "Obedience Thru Suffering" is an album that is far from perfect, with few standout tunes and being slightly difficult to get into with some overlong tracks that border on absent-minded jamming, it cannot be denied that this New Orleans quartet have produced an album instrumental in the development and coming of sludge metal.
Originally written for http://www.metal-temple.com.
Although Obedience Thru Suffering is far from Crowbar's best album, this is a very important record. This marks the first release of a full-fledged sludge metal album. While The Melvin's early recordings were certainly hinting at sludge, this is the first full length to take the leap into the void. This album is a marriage of hardcore punk and doom metal. Many things were pointing to this merging of styles. In fact, the roots of sludge can be traced back to the B-side of Black Flag's 1984 release My War. This side of the album can be seen as proto-sludge as it slowed down hardcore punk, showed a Black Sabbath influence and extended song lengths. With this album, the doom element is even more prominent and Crowbar add a hell of a lot of grit.
The production here really isn't all that good. While it is definitely a good thing that Crowbar sought out a higher quality of production with later releases, the abrasive recording quality here certainly has it's charm. Sludge is generally a filthy genre and this is a fitting start. The bass is very high in the mix; in some parts it is as loud as the guitar, most notably in "The Innocent". The drums make up an important part of the sound, with many interesting fills complementing the slow riffs.
While these riffs certainly can't hold a candle to the band's best, it is evident from the start that Kirk has a gift for riffcraft. The riffs here are all dead simple, yet they are damn solid. Although this is pretty rudimentary for the band, it lays the groundwork for the sound that would persevere throughout the career. Sure, they would go on to experiment and occasionally add different flavours to their sound, but at the core this is what Crowbar is all about. The vocals here aren't as good as they would come to be, but this does features some of Kirk's angriest moments. Album opener "Waiting In Silence" offers some particularly memorable vocal lines. While later albums would offer a glimmer of hope through the hardships of life, this one is all about a crushing sense of depression with no end in sight and those times where life just gets the best of you and it really feels like there is no hope. Little sense of overcoming the hardships is offered:
"The pain I feel
It's stronger than life
It's taken control
My mind is gone
I'm dying inside
I'm falling apart"
While this might not be Crowbar's finest hour, it sets up a solid building block upon which they would go on to do incredible things. This also is a very important album in the development of sludge metal, marking the first time a full length sludge album was released. Along with Eyehategod and the Melvins, Crowbar is considered to be one of the founders of sludge. This release pales in comparison to future releases such as Sonic Excess In It's Purest Form and Odd Fellows Rest. However, that does not mean that this lacks the strength to stand on it's own legs.
New Orleans' Crowbar was not always a well known name amongst metal circles. That wouldn't really occur until 1993 with the self-titled album, and subsequent publicity via Phil Anselmo. Yet from the depths of obscurity lies "Obedience thru Suffering," one of the more difficult of Crowbar albums to really get into, much less thoroughly enjoy.
As most probably know, the whole sludge movement was essentially born out of a number of influences, one of the largest being Black Sabbath and The Melvins. You can definitely get a grasp for that here, as the album has a tendency to simply plod along in sludgey doom with few variations. This does lead to some repetition, not to mention a fairly unspectacular listen as a whole. At least its better than the garage hardcore that "In the Name of Suffering" was in the same year.
While the drum sound is certainly competent, it sometimes becomes a bit much. While on its own the drums sound nice, they do have a tendency to get a little loud and compete for the listener's attention with the guitars. This was present to some extent on later albums, but the riffs were more varied and the songwriting more interesting so the issue was not as evident as it is here. In addition, Crowbar's bearded leader in Kirk Windstein seems a little out of touch with the band. His vocals aren't nearly as impressive nor as deep as on later works. Windstein often sounds like he's on the other side of the room, and his work here doesn't leave much of a lasting impression. Not only that, but his performance is almost completely zapped of the gloomy emotion he would give the audience in droves in years later.
As far as stand-out songs go, they're few and far between. The crunchy "My Agony" throws in an interesting riff during the verses but its a bit overlong. Its only four and half minutes, but due to the lack of variations here the songs seem longer. "4 Walls" is also stands among the best here as it foreshadows this band's ability to throw in tempo changes over the course of one song. This would revisit us later on in more familiar tracks like "All I Had ( I Gave,)" "Scattered Pieces Lay," and "No More Can We Crawl." I would also have to agree with the other reviewer here in saying that "Waiting In Silence" is an excellent song, one of the best on this album and a great song from Crowbar in general.
"Obedience In Suffering" has since been re-released and I don't know if its re-mastered (I have the original with the cartoony artwork) but the sound quality isn't that great here. This also takes away that unique experience Crowbar often gives with its albums, such as the thick, chunky riffs and feeling of impending doom. Still, its pretty decent because it is rather hard to find these days, but I wouldn't recommend shelling out a good deal of green for it, even if it is a rarity. Crowbar have done much better in their later albums, and I can definitely recommend any of those over this one. Despite that, there are a few redeemable moments here, just not enough to really go out of my way to promote the album as a whole.
This humble debut from Kirk Windstein & his merry men is probably the first Sludge album released along with Eyehategod's "In The Name Of Suffering".
As a genre it draws direct influence from the "Melvins" and like the "Melvins" is a more hardcore influenced take on Doom Metal, lyrically & musically as opposed to the epic, traditional style of bands like Candlemass & Solitude Aeturnus.
Here they show all the promise & sign of potential they would later achieve on the self titled album released the next year & on "Odd Fellows Rest" & alerted the attention of a certain Phil Anselmo who the following year was at the production helm for the follow up to this.
The mood of the album is pretty obviously downbeat but as with all Crowbar releases they are able to shift between higher & lower tempo changes, be them more angry or more sensitive, with a lot of skill and also the drum sound on here is stunning as well, piercingly intense & helps build & decrease the atmosphere with a great sense of timing and skill.
One of the greatest factors in their sound on the first 3 albums down to the maestro on the stool, Craig Numenmacher.
Although the drum sound is pretty solid, the production of Kirks vocals doesnt give the big man a lot of justice. The sound is a bit hazy & distant which is a shame as he probably gives his most emotional performance on here, more than later releases, but the upside to the sound on here and for me elevates them above other sludge groups is that their sound is more clean and polished (and I don't mean that in a "the black album" way).
You can hear & enjoy the different elements to the band clearer than their peers such as say Eyehategod or Iron Monkey who have a very grating, merged together, aggressive sound musically and specifically vocally, which is pretty much the same as your average Death Metal "razor blade hacked throat" vocals.
Kirks vocals display a lot of melody and emotion as well as gruffness & overall I think have made Crowbar over time the most attractive and popular band from the sludge pool because of it & also because they are generally more technical & have more varied songwriting.
Although the sound on here does show a lot of promise, a lot of the album does sound samey & the songwriting & riffs lack a lot of the variation and creativity they'd reach on later albums.
Saying that tho, the opener "Waiting In Silence" is one of their greatest songs from their discography, lumbering around in a great doomy setting with one of Kirk's best vocal performances, great lyrics & solid drumming & although the album goes on to sound pretty samey, the quality of the first track can keep you reeling for a while.
Another highlight is probably "4 Walls" which starts off really slow and speeds up frantically towards the end and best displays their good knack for tempo changes.
Overall this is by no means "GREAT" & I wouldn't highly recommend to anyone but you could do a lot worse musically & if you're interested as to the roots of Sludge, this album along with the Melvins and Eyehategod is what spawned the imitators.