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A Sludge Masterpiece - 94%

scrwflandrs, September 20th, 2005

A Sludge Masterpiece
New Orleans sludge metallers Crowbar released this album after going four years without an album, something different after releasing albums in consecutive years three times (1992-1993, 1995-1996 and 2000-2001). What to expect here is typical Crowbar with a few songs that show the band’s creativity, hinting at being atmospheric, but still turning out to be heavy as a two ton brick. Kirk Windstein continues belting out blistering vocals and heavy-as-fuck riffs, and his bandmates back him up nicely. The album was recorded with Rex Brown on bass and former Crowbar member Craig Nunemacher on drums, who assisted Kirk only in the studio. These guys don’t disappoint one bit, bringing an arsenal of balls to the wall heaviness.

The album gets underway with “New Dawn”, which is a fitting opening track, with sludgy, grimy riffs and some nasty vocals from Kirk. Next comes “Slave No More” which is a bit more melodic with yet again a slew of riffs. The breakdown at the end is reminiscent of something you’d hear off of their self-titled release. “Angel’s Wings”, the third track, begins quite fast for Crowbar with blistering blastbeats and ear-shattering vocals. It calms down for a short time and picks up once again, with many tempo changes to accompany the sheer heaviness throughout. Coming Down is a slower, more typical Crowbar song, where Kirk decides to incorporate more harmony in his vocals, giving the song a somewhat atmospheric sense.

By the time you reach “Fall Back To Zero” you think you’ve heard everything. But this fifth track takes that idea and breaks it in half. FBTZ has to be the most depressing song Crowbar has ever done, yet it is as majestic as it can get. It begins with a clean guitar riff which sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a drive through a desolate Louisiana swamp. At 1:14 the chorus comes in with brutal vengeance, only to resolve back to the clean riff. The song progresses nicely, with plenty of that brutality right in your face. The thing that really caught my attention was how after nearly three minutes of unforgiving heaviness, Kirk and the guys manage to bring back the clean guitar riff in an incredible transition that sends chills down my spine every time I hear it. It’s quite a memorable thing if you enjoy transition in music, but not every Crowbar fan will appreciate it.

Next up is “Underworld” which goes back to typical Crowbar, with a great main riff. Another standout is next with “Dead Sun”. The chorus is slowed and depressing, something that any Crowbar fan will enjoy. The song’s structure is strong enough to make it one of the high points on the album.

“Holding Something” and “Moon” are somewhat atmospheric, but still crushing. The lyrics on “Moon” are a bit more thoughtful than most lyrics from the band, which shows the band maturing a little. But don’t get me wrong, they still kick as much ass as they have in the past. This is made clear on “The Violent Reaction”, with insane blastbeats and scarring vocals - yet another strong track on the album.

The closing track, “Lifesblood”, clocks in at over 7 minutes. It ends the album on a calm note with plenty of clean guitar which gives the track a soaring and majestic feeling. They even incorporated piano into the track, something that was only done in 2000 on Equilibrium. It’s a nice touch, and there’s even a guitar solo thrown into the mix. All in all, it’s sort of the hidden exclamation point to the album.

If you enjoyed Crowbar’s past albums you should enjoy this. They try new things and they sound good, while keeping their traditional heavy roots alive and well. This is a must-have for any fan of sludge metal and/or Crowbar. It goes to show how these guys just don’t want to quit, even after going four years without an album, which is something that should be treasured in the metal community today.