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Reviving sludge's downtrodden - 88%

JamesIII, January 23rd, 2010

As sure as daylight shall break, Crowbar will serve up a heaping helping of Louisiana sludge metal for its masses. The ever vigilant Kirk Windstein returned once again after some time in supergroup Down to rekindle the fires of his original band. Needless to say, anyone familiar with this group knows exactly what is in store for those bold enough to trudge into the oppressive sludge infested swamplands this band offers.

It had been some time since I had paid any attention to this album, until a few weeks ago when I began reviewing some of Crowbar's material. I've been a fan of this group for quite some time, not to mention I find their brand of simple, yet relentlessly heavy assault on the ears irresistable. Crowbar essentially represents what one wants from a band they like, and that they remain reliable in their sound with only subtle modifications. To say Crowbar has never evolved is missing the point, evolution is there, but in small baby steps which is exactly what you want out of a band like this. Yet there is little difference between "Sonic Excess in Its Purest Form" and this album, so fans of the former need not worry.

One thing to know about "Lifesblood for the Downtrodden" is that this is a completely different band. Kirk Windstein remains the only constant member between this album and last, with Rex Brown, Warren Riker and Crowbar veteran Craig Nunenmacher returning to the stage. It speaks to Windstein's ability as a band leader and musician to hold the group together after a nearly complete overhaul of the entire line-up. Yet from the dreary "New Dawn," one can instantly assume nothing more than the faces have changed, as the music itself remains consistent with what Crowbar fans want out of their musical sledgehammer of choice.

As one can guess with most Crowbar albums in "Odd Fellows Rest" and afterward, the band pulls few stops between up-tempo assault and the more familiar drudging heaviness. A particular note here would be "Slave No More" which is the usual intensity Crowbar amounts to when things start picking up. "Dead Sun" also plays into this some, reaping a sorrowful melody during the chorus. A personal favorite of mine is "Fall Back to Zero," which illuminates an interesting atmosphere that reminds one of dark skies fast approaching before it thrusts into more usual Crowbar. Even more of an anomaly comes in the form of the title track, which is delightfully different than what you'd expect out of this band. Its absolutely beautiful in most senses of the word, and easily stacks up against numbers of a similiar nature like the title track to "Odd Fellows Rest," though there are differences between them, mind you. In any event its a successful bid of experimentation, albeit one Crowbar has shown signs of in the past.

Though some fans of this band might disagree with me, I'm honestly coming to believe this is one of the band's best. It definitely ranks up there with more recent material like "Odd Fellows Rest" and "Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form." Some might simply see this band as going through the motions each and every time, making little improvements to their sound since 1993's self-titled album. Those detractors are obviously missing the point, since Crowbar has been pushing the idea of added elements to their mix (such as the title track and "Fall Back to Zero,") for some time now, at least since "Time Heals Nothing" way back in '95. Its been a slow evolution, even slower than the superton beast this band represents. At the exact same time, the sound that Crowbar plays is one that is distinctly their own, so as far as I'm concerned they can hammer out as much oppressive groove from the grim tar pits as they please.

Based on its own merit, "Lifesblood of the Downtrodden" deserves attention from diehard Crowbar fans. It stacks up well against all of their other releases, standing up as one of the Top 3 in my opinion. This band seems to get better with age, as many a Crowbar fan will tell you. Its been five years now since this album's release, and I keep hearing rumors a new one is in the works. For the time being, we'll just have to make do with this incredible slab of reliable sludge metal and enjoy the aura of impending doom and merciless heaviness.