Crowbar - Lifesblood For The Downtrodden
So what exactly, my shield brothers ask of me, is the nature of sludge? Imagine being pinned to the ground by huge sweaty guys and having wet cement funnelled down your throat while someone taps your temples with a ballpeen hammer. Imagine a dinosaur walking up and down your spinal cord with a wanton disregard for the squishing sound your intestines make as they squirt out every available orifice. Imagine a deadly cocktail of barbiturates and amphetamines injected straight into your heart with a crew of EMTs on hand to revive your flaccid heart each time it gives out and then inject the deadly mixture once again.
Imagine those things all rolled together, and you'll come close. Sludge is a one of those hybrid genres that evolved in the early 90s parallel to the rise in popularity of Doom metal (Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Cathedral) and prior to the plague now known as "Nu-metal".Musically, it is a combination of unspeakably heavy drop-tuned riffs and straight-8 drumming (as opposed to blastbeats) with either clean or shouted vocals-it is the lack of overpowering speed and vomitorium vocals that distinctly differentiates it from death metal. Crowbar, the subject of this review, I credit with the invention of the genre. It's best to go to the pure source, is it not?
Crowbar and sludge are a band and genre ready to come into their own as one of the great, longlived crossover bands like Motorhead and AC/DC-enjoyed not just by metal fans but punks and hardcore kids as well. There is an original spark that smolders here, as with the other bands mentioned, that sets their musical careers apart from the tides of mediocrity and non-identity that threaten to swamp heavy music. The first thing really noticeable on this and the subsequent discs is riffage. Windstein and Gibbs craft some consistent, unspeakably heavy riffs, especially on "New Dawn", the opening track,, and "Dead Sun", the first single. There is a primal response that droptuned guitar, in the hands of a professional, evokes-like the first time hearing a St. Vitus track or the first time hearing the Tony Iommi riff on "Into the Void". That response defines the appeal of the band-it's just flat fucking heavy.
I did mention that sludge bands rely more on straight-8
drumming as a device than blastbeats and some of the more domestic fare
found in modern metal. "Coming Down", "Holding Something"
, and "Underworld" are prime examples of a slowed down style
that can rival the lickety-split pacing of modern metal any day. Although
Crowbar has all the subtlety of a double shot of bourbon and a kick
to the teeth, "Moon" and "Lifesblood" even flirt
with the melodic side of the band, in true Sabbathian fashion. It would
be unfair to applaud the universal appeal of this band without a bit
of a disclaimer-there is the possibility that power metal purists may
be turned off by Windstein's brutal vocal style, so if your ideal is
Halford and Kiske to the exclusion of all others, buyer beware. If not,
this band stomps ass like a rabid tyrannosaur-get it.