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While I usually hold in higher regard bands that show a willingness to experiment and change, or at least incorporate different styles over time, innovating and further pushing their own genre, I'll always have a place in my heart for Crowbar. If you've ever heard a Crowbar song, you know what to expect from them: straight-up, no bullshit, riff-driven, dirty, punishing sludge. And, really, this style suits them perfectly, and it goes great with the identity they have built in their over-20-year-old-already career. Within this frame, then, Sonic Excess in its Purest Form represents the highest point for them, making the title a very apt description of the music contained.
Opening with “The Lasting Dose”, a song that would become a Crowbar classic, alongside “Planets Collide” and “All I Had (I Gave)”, Sonic Excess wastes no time getting started. You're greeted by a mournful, melodic guitar line followed by a powerful riff as Kirk sings his sorrows the usual way, with his trademark gruff vocals - not a growl, not a shout, but a very harsh and hoarse, and yet melodic, voice. Still, that's only an aperitif for the songs which come later and represent, in my opinion, the real emotional hard-hitters in this album: “Through the Ashes (I've Watched You Burn)” and “Repulsive in its Splendid Beauty”, some of the most melancholy songs I've ever heard in Crowbar's catalog, due to the strong, memorable guitarwork and the extremely heartfelt vocals, even more so than usual, I'd say. To help give this album a little diversity, these are interspersed, then, with some angrier bits, like “To Build a Mountain” and “Awakening”, that start with hardcore-ish intensity before slowing down. And it only gets better and doomier as the album marches forth, past the bluesy instrumental interlude “In Times of Sorrow” – which despite being what some could call a “filler”, serves, as a much needed break to allow the listener some room to breathe. We have some more aggression in “It Pours From Me” and “Failure to Delay Gratification”, and, between them, the main riff of “Suffering Brings Wisdom” rears its ugly, memorable, bassy head, before “Empty Room” closes the album in an extremely high (or, well, low) note, alternating between powerful riffs and the painful verses, when Kirk's only accompanied by the rhythm section.
Due to how simple and direct Crowbar's approach is (it's just “assault you with massive riffs”, really), I don't think I can do them justice by talking about the songs themselves. Where it all comes together, and what I think is what sets them apart from other bands, is the feeling. While other prestigious sludge acts like Neurosis (and their followers, Isis, Kylesa et al) have found their style in contemplative, more philosophical/metaphysical themes, and bands like Eyehategod, Grief and Acid Bath tend towards a darker feel, exploring themes of politics, crime, misanthropy, nihilism and sometimes dark humor, Crowbar is more focused on the struggles of common folk. When they speak of suffering, that is not the be-all-end-all of their music, but something you have to get through in life. “These things make you become a man” and “Just know the world's gonna give you nothing”, Kirk belts out in Sonic Excess, in an oddly paternal manner. You're supposed to learn from suffering and not avoid or wallow in it, is what Crowbar's saying, and their music echoes it perfectly so as to make that a statement, the sound of someone struggling with the daily grind, and not merely lyrics one would phone in just to avoid making an instrumental album. And that's just not something you see in every other sludge act.
So, if you're already a fan of Crowbar, Down (where, as you probably know, Kirk plays guitar as well), Acid Bath (where Sammy Duet, the other guitarist here, used to play) or sludge metal in general, Sonic Excess is for you, as it's some of the best offerings in the genre. If you like doom metal (just as long as it's not in its more flowery or epic-sounding incarnations) or even old-school hardcore punk, this album might be for you too.
'Crowbar' are the definitive sludgy/doom band of the modern era. This being their 7th album in 10 years shows they are hard working and persistent in their campaign to bless their listeners with tales of life struggles, loss and hard-goings. I have always dubbed 'Crowbar' the working mans metal due to the equation between the average man and the never ending woes in his or her lives.
'Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form' carries on the path of what 'Crowbar' have always been known for. The NOLA sound has a distinction from other forms of doom metal in that it is heavy,down-tuned and extremely thick and slow. Kirk's vocals are harsh and full-forced with every bit of fortitude that his voice can muster. What is interesting to note is that when he is singing it is his natural voice that is highlighted due to the way he talks with a rasp and deep tone.
'The Everlasting Dose' is 'Crowbar's' signature song on the album. It comprises all the best attributes of the album and the bands harmony as a ever perfect flow from song to song. 'To Build A Mountain' is another good example of this. 'Sammy's' guitar work as always is a standout (along with Kirk's) whether it was in 'Acid Bath' or in 'Goatwhore', he is guaranteed to be at his best. The bass and overall drum sound is synchronized flawlessly and makes every song appreciable for its content and musicianship.
The opening to 'Suffering Brings Wisdom' is one of the coolest instrument parts to any song I have ever heard, quite frankly it is the most catchy on the album. 'Crowbar' is one of the most diverse bands out there today and have always been a crowd pleaser. While this may not be 'Crowbars' best album it is definitely top 3. The listener should appreciate the driving force that is the backbone to every 'Crowbar' release and therefore enjoy every song.
First I wanna talk about Kirk, 10 years go by and his voice is still beautifully up to par. It's funny to listen to death metal vocalists sing and then in interviews they sound like Mike Tyson. Not Kirk tough, I've met and talked to him before a Down concert. His voice is deep and raspy. When he sings, it's naturally burtal and not forced at all (unlike most metal)
Sonic Excess is the sound of life's painful mind trip. Instead of getting pissed off and playing some really fast, mindless bullshit. Crowbar slows down, puts thought and feeling into the music. Which builds for some pretty sick intensity once you get into it.
They pick up speed in Awakening, Failure to delay Gratifacation, and an awesome break down on Thru The Ashes. Maybe since I am a fan of Crowbar I was thinking something different or branch out more. It was a real treat to hear the instrumental of Times of Sorrow. There's good melodies through out the entire cd. It seems everytime the line up changes they still manage to keep the same orah about them.
The drumming is really tight and clean while everything else is distorted and dirty. Crowbar's music hasn't changed much but with each new cd, they get more skilled and comfortable in their sound. Sonic Excess in its Purest Form is 11 songs of Quicksand mixed with blood and testosterone.