Sound: I was just shocked to see no mention of Crowbar in the review section of this otherwise fine website so I decided to do my own review of one their best albums and hopefully introduce some of you metal heads out there to one of the truly under-appreciated metal bands of all time and in my opinion one of best and definetley one of the most unique and incomparable.
Crowbar is the brainchild of singer / guitarist Kirk Windstein (also of Down / Kingdom Of Sorrow fame) and Jimmy Bower (also of Down / EyehateGod) and is what he describes a mixture of the down-tuned sludge of The Melvins mixed with the all out aggression of Peter Steele's (of Type O Negative fame) old band Carnivore, and this is an adequate summation of their general sound if you add a little Iron Maiden / Thin Lizzy style harmonies and a lot of dark, slow Black Sabbath-esque atmosphere and sense of dread, and of course, predominantly hardcore-style vocals. They aimed to go lower (tuning wise) and slower than anyone else... And succeeded! I believe all songs are in B tuning on six string guitars.
Although they are basically a doom/sludge metal band, there are some very strong thrash elements on this album in particular the opening duo of "High Rate Extinction" and "All I Had (I Gave)" as well as the awesome "Self-Inflicted". They even through in a barely recognizable cover version of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter" to great effect, and in my opinion, bests the original or at leasts makes the song their own.
Although they are as heavy as an elephant's nutsack most of the time, there is, perhaps surprisingly a strong sense of melody in most if not all the songs. Kirk said that in order to be a better vocalist he got a lot of his vocal lines / ideas from 70's rock bands and even Seal! The album was released in 1993 and was produced by childhood friend and fellow member of New Orlean's supergroup Down, a certain Phil Anselmo. Although the production pales to the crisp metal production of today, it stands its ground well when you consider its now 20 years old and still manages to sound very heavy, dirty and unique. // 10
Lyrics: As you can guess by the song titles "I Have Failed", "High Rate Extinction" and "Self-Inflicted" this is not going to be an album littered in uplifting, happy lyrics, and in this case, so it shouldn't be as it would totally undermine the emotion and the feel of the music. Crowbar is dark, heavy, possibly nihilistic music, and so is its lyrics and both go together like bread and butter. Here are some examples:
"I'll never lose the scars you gave," "All my fear is, All my pain is... Self inflicted". ("Self-Inflicted")
"I gave my heart and soul to you my friend, you let me fall." ("Existence Is Punishment")
Uh-huh. Nothing uplifting here, songs about death, depression, failure, betrayal and other similar issues, but it sounds so real, honest and sincere and is so suitable to the music I can't give it any less than a 10. Also, the lyrics are so open for interpretation in my opinion (in that they don't really specify to root of the pain / story / situation) anyone can relate them to aspects of their own lives. // 10
Overall Impression: Many rate this as Crowbar's best album and is frequently the one mentioned in metal magazine polls / articles, unfortunately most often list such as 'Hidden Treasures' or 'Best Album you never heard of.' This is the second Crowbar album and is a massive improvement on the already brilliant debut that preceded it ("Obedience Thru Suffering"). They mastered and perfected their sound and added other elements to it as well. This is up there with their best albums like "Broken Glass", "Odd Fellows Rest" and "Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form" and is unlike anyone that was around at the time and hasn't been bettered since.
I love everything about this album, the only thing I hate is that this album was not the one that led a metal revolution in the mid 90's and instead, people turned to KoRn... Honestly? KoRn over THIS!? Nu Metal was credited as introducing down-tuned or B tuning to metal in 1994 - Crowbar did this in 1988 / 89... Just sayin'! Had the world listened, we all could have avoided the, let's be honest, frankly embarrassing and torrid metal sub genre that was Nu Metal if Crowbar got the rub of the green, attention and success they deserved in 1993, but alas, that is the way of the world I guess!
On the plus side though, Crowbar, perhaps still fueled by their hunger and shocking lack of success went on to record over half a dozen more cracking albums, and are still going to this day, although to a lesser extent thanks to Kirk's Down commitments, and that Kirk, more or less IS Crowbar. The production is slick and well done without losing the raw heaviness as well. The best songs are "All I Had (I Gave)", "Existence Is Punishment", "Self-Inflicted", "No Quarter" and "High Rate Extinction". But trust me, they are ALL great tracks.
This is pure, unique and brilliant slice of downtuned, sludge / doom metal with elements of thrash, classic rock and hardcore thrown in for good measure, check it out and prepare to be amazed! Plug in, Tune Down, Sludge Out! // 10