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Here it is. Kirk Windstein has finally gotten around to releasing something new with Crowbar. SInce the last Crowbar record, he's taken part in 5 records and tons of tour with 3 other bands. But for Crowbar, it meant 6 years of waiting since the last Crowbar album, 4 years since the last Crowbar anything, and 2 years since Kirk announced the plan for a new album, to actually release something. Kirk made it very well worth the wait though. Sever the Wicked Hand, Crowbar's 9th full-length record, delivers just what was expected of them - another masterpiece of classic sludge metal has arrived!!
From start to finish, Sever the Wicked Hand is yet another quality slab of miserable riffs of doom that rumbles to the bottom of your gut. For the most part, it plays out just as a Crowbar fan would expect. "Isolation (Desperation)" starts the record strong and downtrodden, and the familiar negativity is eventually championed in the cathartic "Let Me Mourn". Then the record shifts its gear a bit - the mid-paced single "The Cemetery Angels", a groovy sludge of "As I Become One", and the haunting instrumental (with a piano!) of "A Farewell to Misery" are three of the best tracks, lined up one after another. Afterwards, the brief dual guitar during the breakdown on "I Only Deal in Truth" impresses with the most melodic moment of the record. The following track, "Echo an Eternity", is a beautiful ballad where Kirk delivers his singing at its best. The remaining pair of songs cap off this record excellently, bulldozing with the heaviest 9 minutes of the record. Overall the record is somewhat faster than records from Crowbar's earlier days, but every riffs are unmistakably and uniquely Crowbar.
New for Crowbar, the record is treated to a professional production by Zeuss and Kirk himself, giving the riffs a modernized tone. It's hard to describe the sound well, but the guitar tones are relatively brighter and sharper for a Crowbar album, just as the album cover is. Those who listen to Shadows Fall or Kingdom of Sorrow might have a good idea of what I'm talking about, since Zeuss also produced their records.
Casual fans might not be aware, but Crowbar has actually been subtly evolving with each record since the mid-90s. On Sever the Wicked Hand, the elements of "evolution" would be the drummer and the lyrics. Tommy Buckley, also a drummer for grindcore-blues band Soilent Green, is by far the the most talented drummer in Crowbar's history, and brings in some diverse rhythm nuances that was lacking before. In his best moments, Tommy sneaks in blast-beats to songs like "Protectors of the Shrine" and "I Only Deal in Truth", adds a death metal flavor to the beginning of the title track, and he even does a rockabilly-meets-doom boogie on "As I Become One". If and when Tommy leaves the band, the next guy is gonna have a big shoe to fill.
And then there's the lyrics. Crowbar have always been compassionate, but they get even more sentimental on Sever the Wicked Hand. This time it's not just the same ol' beer-soaked mulling over personal defeat, regret, and mistakes; Kirk expands the song topics to triumph over personal woes and strength of love. Fear not, because they aren't schmaltzy. They're actually good because they are humble and relatable, but not dogmatic nor cliched. Moreover, there's substance to his positive attitude, backed up by Kirk's experiences from the past 6 years, including death of friends (e.g. Dimebag Darrell), Hurricane Katrina, birth of a daughter, divorce, kicking alcohol habits, etc. The best example in this regard is "Echo an Eternity", as the song is (presumably) a seriously touching tribute and show of appreciation to his little daughter. As a listener/fan, Kirk's new attitude is hard not to like. Ultimately, Kirk still has that good ol' tough 'n gruff voice, but Kirk on this record is a new, reborn Kirk, and it's refreshing.
When Crowbar hit its 20th anniversary mark in 2009, Kirk also promised us a live album and a box set of their old materials. I'm still waiting for the promise to come true, but for now, the new album will keep me really happy. This one is Crowbar's best yet - everything that made Crowbar great in the first place is still intact, and it's now strengthened by sincere positivity and wisdom. Thank you Kirk, for yet another beautiful record to accompany me in my life's journey.