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This album took me by surprise on first listen. I was familiar with Crowbar for years but was mostly into their song “Existence is Punishment” from their self titled release. Subsequent listens to their other works were good but something was always lacking, mainly due to the production. Vocalist Kirk has a powerful voice that is dripped in emotion hardly found in metal these days that does not cause the listener to laugh hysterically, and the music was thick and sludgy but the overall sound seemed like it could be heavier. All these problems were rectified on this album.
The guitar tone absolutely crushes. Heavy as balls, you will find yourself constantly head banging along to this record. Despite it being so pummeling, there are lots of moments where the guitar work is quite melodic without sacrificing heaviness. On "December's Spawn" the reverb and feedback is astounding, taking your mind to another dimension. The vocals are at their best, gruff and strong but still conveying a genuine sense of endearment. The songwriting is impeccable, not a single bad track. Every one well written with great hooks and riffs, with the odd crawling breakdowns thrown in that you can lose your shit too.
As Crowbar is considered “sludge metal”, that is, the combination of doom metal and hardcore punk, there are very few fast hardcore passages on this record. It’s smothered in gloomy doom with lyrics that are touching and introspective. I honestly believe this album should be more celebrated in the metal world. There is not a single fault, get it and be overwhelmed by the pain and suffering.
Crowbar always delivers the heaviest music possible with meaningful lyrics and somehow melodic yet extremely aggressive vocals, and this album is definitely no exception. Kirk Windstein still delivers his typical agonizing, raw style of melodic yet ghastly vocals, in a hardcore punk-esque style, specially with songs such as Planets Collide or To Carry The Load.
Heavy riffs are played constantly through the songs, with a brutal noisy crunch that makes your head inevitably band. All this while keeping the dark atmosphere of the album, making you think you're locked inside an abandoned jail room without any kind of light, slamming your head against the wall again and again. No matter how many times you her their crunchy heavy ass riffs, it just never gets tiresome or boring at all. You'll want to blast this on your car all the time, just be careful or your speakers may explode when ''the planets collide''.
The only skinny band member, which is the drummer, manages to create groovy, slow tempo beats that fit perfectly with the band's bestial guitars. Specially with the punchy sound the drum kit has that sounds like something really heavy is being hit with full force with relentless crash cymbals at all times.
Bass is present without being too elaborated either, just being there, making the music sound colossal, like something really big and epic is going on, with a very thick sound that endures until the end of the album. It's kind of difficult to distinguish the bass with the distortion it has since the guitars bury the whole bass line all the time and the bassist never plays anything outstandingly technical. Nevertheless, it all sounds brutal, heavy, crushing, punishing, mind blowing and out of this world.
Some might say Crowbar sounds like nu-metal, but trust me folks, that couldn't be more far away from the truth. Odd Fellows Rest will either make you stop the drugs because you won't need 'em to trip with such hallucinating tunes or you'll want to get into the craziest LSD trip ever.
For nearly a decade prior to this album, Louisiana born metal band Crowbar had been climbing up the ranks in the music world. They hadn't obtained it much, except for what exposure they got for their self-titled release and various publicity from Phil Anselmo, close friend to Kirk Windstein. Crowbar was good, no doubt about that, but they hadn't pulled off anything that rose above their knack for slow to mid-tempo sludge metal with the bellowing war cries of Windstein. After listening to the self-titled, "Time Heals Nothing," and "Broken Glass" for a while, I have come to realize that "Odd Fellows Rest" was an attempt at something better.
Exactly what the band was shooting for here is still a bit enigmatic, though given the album content they accomplish in overshadowing most everything else in their catalog up to this point. The twelve ton, chunky riffs played at a snail's pace hasn't changed, but the atmosphere is definitely heavier. The heavier side to this album shatters what Broken Glass could do (no pun intended) and that was the band's heaviest album upon its release. The hardcore elements are more powerful here, the songwriting is better, and the songs themselves are more memorable.
An excellent example of this would be in the incredible opener "Planets Collide." Crowbar has done very few songs like this before, the closest comparisons from their back catalog would be "Nothing" or "I Have Failed." This song is more up-lifting in terms of the feeling, not to mention better overall than those two. It still carries a dark atmosphere, as does the other surprise in the title track. The song "Odd Fellows Rest" is both more enchanting than the rest of this album, or anything Crowbar had done up to this point, yet still dreary and lost in a darkened mire of hopelessness. The song does drag a bit, considering its six minute length, but it shows Crowbar pushing for something new or at least an attempt at expanding their ideas.
The remaining tracks are basically standard Crowbar, only heavier. "Odd Fellows Rest" also catches the band throwing in more memorable riffs into their songs, something "Broken Glass" seemed to lack. This isn't exactly a gourmet meal of exquisite riffing, but I can remember most of these songs even after a while of not hearing them. Standard Crowbar work comes into play on "1,000 Year Internal War" and "To Carry the Load," which both carry Kirk Windstein's usual tormented vocals that are as heavy as the guitars themselves.
I also took a liking to "December's Spawn" a slow and dark song that reminds me some of "Nothing" off the "Broken Glass" album albeit heavier and not as bleak. "Scattered Pieces Lay" and "On Frozen Ground" both see some hardcore elements thrown in to give them a biting edge though both songs eventually slow down and become more standard Crowbar. Still, these songs are some of the best this band has done in their career, trumping the heralded self-titled album through sheer heaviness and songwriting quality. These songs move beyond typical sludge/doom and show the band evolving, though still sticking to their guns for the most part. They're still as heavy and powerful as you'd want them to be, so this isn't an "experimental" album, but it is moving in different territory while keeping listeners flattened with those lazy but heavy-ass riffs.
Aside from some of the songs droning on for too long ("It's All in the Gravity" comes to mind here) this is the best album Crowbar had done up to this point. As I've stated many times before, its definitely heavier, possibly more riff oriented than before, and definitely fleshing out new ideas. I can't really say this beats out "Sonic Excess..." or "Lifesblood for the Downtrodden" because I havn't heard those albums in their entirety, but it comes close from what I have heard of them. Any fan of Crowbar definitely needs to pick this up, while it also makes a good first for the curious listener. Its not quite as accessible as the self-titled was, but its better in most respects. I'd also branch out and say its worthy of checking out for doom fans who don't mind the sludge variant, nor the lack of complex structures and virtuoso shredding. If its an attempt at something better, I would have to say it succeeded and surpassed expectations of a Crowbar release.
With a guitar sound that could destroy a plane and nothing but power and emotion expressed by the behemoth that is known as Kirk Windstein, Odd Fellows Rest is a classic of sludge and a classic metal album, period.
Never really being a band to change their sound, Odd Fellows Rest carries on a similar approach to Broken Glass, with more emphasis on atmosphere and despair. Some often debate the genre of which Crowbar belong to, some say hardcore while others say sludge, well, for me it's a mix of both. Some songs are much slower and dense than others like 1000 Year Internal War, which has a very thick guitar tone and often slows down the pace of the song completely, only accompanied by Kirk's vocals strained vocals with some synthesizer thrown in creating an almost liquid imagery to the vocals. Which further elevates Kirk's pain regarding his addiction to alcohol.
The lyrics of this album are so personal and thought provoking, you almost can imagine being Kirk and feeling his pain. "Soul searching for lost innocence, feel it coming, coming in waves, created my own world" from the song Odd Fellows Rest this explains his struggle to come to terms with who he is, his main goal is to search for himself but he can't as the alcohol furthers himself from the rest of the world.
This is what I look for in my metal, power, atmosphere, engagement with the listener, strength, Odd Fellows Rest has this and more so, a huge recommendation for any fan of metal in general.
Note: I originally wrote this review for another decidedly non-metal website in 1998. You can find the original review at http://www.music-critic.com/rock/crowbar_oddfellowsrest.htm. I have edited it slightly.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Crowbar, I feel compelled to run through a little history here. Crowbar first formed in New Orleans in 1989 under the name The Slugs. At a time when thrash metal was at its peak with death metal fast on its heels in becoming the most dominant trend in underground metal, a time when speed was essential for heavy music, The Slugs emerged in the N.O. underground pounding out slow, bonecrushingly heavy tunes that few knew what to think of. A demo was made in 1990 which captured their essence in a way most cds fail to do (note: I will pay handsomely for a new copy of this, as I have worn mine out badly!). By late ’91, after an obvious name change and hundreds of unbelievably heavy shows opening for the likes of Exhorder, they were signed to the now-defunct Grindcore label, releasing Obedience Thru Suffering in mid-1992. An exercise in grinding misery and heaviness the likes of which had never been heard before, much of it consisted of songs previously available on the demo, and it didn’t garner too much attention outside the local scene here.
In late ’93, Crowbar released a self titled cd which quickly became acclaimed throughout the metal scene. Produced by Phil Anselmo of Pantera on the newly formed Pavement label, its production far surpassed that of Obedience, and some unthinkingly passed off Crowbar’s sound as a product of Phil and Pantera (this type of thinking is akin to one who deprives himself of the wonderful experience of listening to Faith No More because "they are Red Hot Chili Pepper clones"). Soon even Beavis and Butthead could not resist poking fun at the big boys on more than one occasion, but nor could they deny the heaviness…
Five years and three exceptional cd’s later, with numerous personell changes, Crowbar is, happily, still around. And the new cd has (finally) been released. With the recent addition of Sammy Duet (ex-Acid Bath) as the second guitarist, Crowbar has retained their overwhelming propensity for creating the heaviest music this side of any Iron Man weightlifting competition, and yet they have managed to throw in some influences and emotions which were not present in any great degree on previous efforts, making this their strongest release to date. The opening track, "Planets Collide", while a rather odd note to begin the cd with, sets the stage for the rest of it, and while most strikingly different from the rest of this effort, it displays the most amazing mutation of influences Crowbar has yet incorporated. Similar innovations occur in the form of melodic dual vocal tracks (!) in "Scattered Pieces Lay" and "Behind The Black Horizon" (a track which also displays a heaviness and mood not in evidence since Obedience Thru Suffering ; a welcome nod to their roots, this feeling seems to permeate the entire cd in the same manner that a good marinate flavors a steak…). Crowbar’s involvement with Down shines through for the first time on "New Man Born", giving the track an oppressive southern-fried edge in the same spirit of Down’s "Bury Me In Smoke" or "Lifer", albeit much heavier. This southern influence extends to the most unexpected track on the cd, "Odd Fellows Rest", which can only be compared to Black Sabbath’s "Planet Caravan" or Down’s "Jail". Though this track might have been more suited for the next Down cd (hmm, wouldn’t that be cool!), it is just as powerful in its serenity as the other tracks are in their heaviness…
Were in not for Crowbar’s habit of consistently putting out the some of the best heavy music to be had, I would brand this cd a classic for the ‘90’s, just as Metallica’s (R.I.P.) Master Of Puppets and Slayer’s Reign In Blood were for the 80’s. If nothing else, this cd represents a healthy step forward for the band, and is a must-have for anyone who loves oppressively heavy music. So quit reading this and go get it. Now.