Lifesblood of the Downtrodden

What’s not to like about an album emblazoned with the logo of my beloved New Orleans Saints? After almost 4 years of silence, the follow up to 2001’s ‘return to form’ album Sonic Excess in its Purest Form is here and ready to sit on your chest and slap you repeatedly. With their 8th album in their 15 year existence, Crowbar is one of the few bands that refuse to evolve or progress beyond the sound of their debut. Beyond the oddly quirky Equilibrium, Crowbar are the meat ‘n’ potatoes of extreme metal; very little flair, but a comforting, welcome sustenance that is satisfying no matter how many times you experience it.

With yet another label (Candlelight seems a curious fit, but oh well) and yet another line-up, Kirk Windstein simply kept Crowbar’s formula the same whoever is playing and no matter what label they reside on. Crowbar will still deliver, crushing oppressive southern sludge at its finest. At their best when slowing down to a heart stopping lumber, Crowbar’s weight isn’t purely physical anymore, lightened considerably since the Todd Strange days, but are still are heavy musically, as Crowbar have a consistently molten crawl that’s rife with pain and angst. The repressive heaviness of Crowbar is due to their ability to play massive yet restrictive riffs that seem to implode upon the listener with the gravity of a black hole. Granted, Crowbar’s sound hasn’t changed one iota since 1992, but they are one of the few bands that still sound great. A now wizened Windstein still has a throaty croon that has improved over the years, and his drawn out, oozing riffs still contain a painful lethargy that’s hard to match.

Opening with perfect welcome back track, “New Dawn” is a classic Crowbar dirge of rumbling proportions. While “Slave No More” is more balladic in its initial intent, it closes with vast lurch fitting of any prior Crowbar material. If Crowbar has a weakness beyond their stubborn lack of development, it’s Winstein’s insistence on trying to crank out energetic, high octane riffs that generally flail awkwardly. Lifesblood… is noticeably and thankfully short in these moments as only “Angel’s Wings” really tries to hard to be something more antagonistic. Windstein’s improved voice highlights “Coming Down” with far more range than he has previously displayed. Don’t worry, he’s not Barry Manilow or anything now, but his sullen croon fits the songs slower, moodier tempo. You’d be hard pressed to differentiate the line-up difference as Rex Brown (bass) and Craig Nunenbacher (drums) fit in seamlessly with what is essentially now Windstein’s show and make the album sound like Crowbar should without missing a beat.

Winstein still likes to wallow in self pity as heard on “Fall Back to Zero” and “Holding Something”, and it makes for great music, but I find it hard to believe the bearded Cajun ogre has much to be upset about (other than being a Saints fan-I feel ya brother). The monstrous “Dead Sun”, despite its brevity, is yet another mid paced crusher befitting Crowbar‘s legacy. With a opening riff similar to the brilliant “December Spawn” from the Odd Fellow’s Rest opus to start “Holding Something”, Crowbar show that due to their style, are guilty of some riff recycling, but as from album to album, the song to song similarity is still welcome listen. The rending “Moon” weaves a hypnotically heavy tone and ends with a trademark, heavy assed Crowbar groove. The title track is the album’s only real eyebrow raiser, being more of a Down-like southern acoustic ballad, but it’s a fitting somber endnote to the album’s draining pace.

To put it bluntly, Lifesblood… is simply another killer Crowbar album, and that’s a good if not great thing. Where it stands in the Crowbar discography is debatable as all the albums are so similar and close in consistent quality, but I’d rank slightly it behind my personal favorite Odd Fellow’s Rest and even with Sonic Excess… as my second favorite Crowbar album. But that is like comparing sex positions as they all have the same result; a blubbering mass of quivering, sweaty flesh. Or is that just me?

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
February 12th, 2005


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