So I’m super unqualified to review this record because I a) don’t like sludge and b) have never listened to Crowbar before this moment. Sure, I’m sure I should have heard them, but I gotta be honest with you, I’ve been sort of busy. There are plenty of scenes that have developed since the 1990s and the slow, southern rock post-thrash stuff has never been my thing. Name bands from south of the Mason-Dixie line and I probably don’t like them unless they’re Kris Kristofferson. Always hated Down, didn’t think Corrosion of Conformity was terribly special (and this one’ll really burn your ass), I never liked Pantera or its postbellum incarnations. (Oh and I don’t like Black Label Society because they want to be a southern band even though Zakk Wylde is from fucking NEW JERSEY.) Given all of that, then, I was pretty fucking stoked that listening to this record wasn’t torture! In fact, it was really enjoyable. Let me regale you with the tale.
So, for those of you who don’t know, Crowbar is the prototypical sludge band and this shit is really enjoyable. It’s slow, melodic and really I think in listening to it, I think it’s basically post-thrash. It’s got what sounds like influences from the Bay Area greats in the harmonies and some of the riffing, it’s just slower. Or maybe more appropriately, it has a lot of similar influences that were synthesized in a different way. The vocals, too, are that sort of great blend of clean vocals and raspy thrash vocals. And it’s got a bit of a punk or hardcore vibe to it, as well, but I hear more thrash than hardcore, honestly. And it sounds good to me.
I tend to be a bit of a hater when it comes to doom and sludgeâ€”though, more doomy bands have grown on me in recent times, but the death knell for most sludge and doom bands is the inevitable boredom that strikes. Give me long enough and I will get bored with this stuff. However as I listened to Sever the Wicked Hand I didn’t get bored. Hardly at all! There was only one track where they “BRIIIING IIIIIIIT DOOOOOOOOOWN!!!!!” for like 8 minutes at the end of the song that I just wanted to hang a puppy (“The Cemetery Angels,” poor little puppies, they never stood a chance). But there was a surprising lack of breakdowns (the guitar player from Unearth once told me that their goal was to mix In Flames with Crowbar) and there was a hell of a lot of well-formed, gorgeous guitar melodies that really kicked my ass, including one of my favorite moments on the disc from the track “As I Become One” that has these beautiful harmonies over clean electric that just scream early 80s Metallica, and that are followed up with some super crunchy riffing afterwords.
This disc does have its downsides. Some of the tracks are clearly better than others, and it seems like Kirk Windstein, the vocalist and guitarist and only remaining original member, has gotten a little soft, including writing a song about his kid (“Echoes in Eternity”), which in and of itself isn’t bad, and while I’m sure every word is true, it strikes me as a jaded, bitter, hateful, terrible person who hangs puppies (see above) as a little bit cheesy. And then there are the tracks that don’t even really deserve a mention because they’re just kinda filler.
But most of the CD isn’t filler and actually it’s really enjoyable. “Cleanse Me, Heal Me,” “Sever the Wicked Hand,” “I Only Deal in Truth” and “Protectors of the Shrine” all stand out for me as truly enjoyable, interesting tracks that really break against my biases against doomy bands from the south. And from what I hear this is also some of Crowbar‘s heaviest material in a long time. So given that this record is pretty good, I’m definitely going to and investigate their discography because Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordingsâ„¢ states that their earlier stuff should be superior to this. I’ll leave it to the longtime listeners to tell you whether or not that’s true. If they are better than this, I can definitely see why they got a reputationâ€”’cause this record is pretty damn good.