CROWBAR - ZERO AND BELOW
PLANETARY SORROW FROM SLUDGE'S BIG DADDIES
“The kind of music you have on a workout tape if you’re skinny and you want to get fat” was Beavis and Butthead’s description of Crowbar’s music. NME could not have put it any better. Crowbar are purveyors of, and synonymous with, sludge having played it before it existed. As a sub-genre it has certainly conflagrated since being an indigenous and fairly insular phenomenon of the close-knit New Orleans underground. But even now, it is a style that is often too much for even hardened acolytes of heavy music and Crowbar albums sometimes could prove tests of endurance with gruelingly slow, punishingly heavy, glutinous paeans to self-loathing and despair. That gargantuan core sound is also spliced with a twang of distinctly deep south swampiness, a distantly bluesy quality and a chemical sordidness.
Only occasionally and fleetingly over the last 30 or so years have Crowbar dabbled with stylistic variation as their sound is anchored in slow-moving, world-ending wet concrete and Zero and Below breaks no traditions. After so long plying his trade, the grizzled Kirk Windstein, the sole mainstay and vocalist, knows Crowbar’s USP and is sticking to it. Having said that, there is some diversity here, at least by Crowbar standards. The Fear that Binds You is a caustic high-velocity, hardcore-informed headbanger and it, along with the daintily-titled Bleeding from Every Hole, have a speed which Crowbar rarely reach. Chemical Godz meanwhile is a snotty, depraved and sleazy piece of sludge rock metal with swagger and connotations of some Down or Corrosion of Conformity.
Essentially though nobody buys a Crowbar record and doesn’t expect heavyweight, lugubrious low-end wallowing and tales of incurable prolapsed spirit. The band find their favourite gear with the morbid languor of the crawling Her Evil is Sacred and the slow evolution of the lachrymose closing title track is vintage flatulent despair via the medium of planetary heaviness. Elephantine, sludgy riffs hang and linger and develop and unfold torpidly.
Deeply submerged in all the fuzzy ugliness and low-metabolic mournfulness is, however, an occasional soulful quality. Perhaps somehow bastardised and barely traceable from the blues heritage of the deep South, Windstein’s anguished sunburnt songs of loss and suffering have almost an unpretty votive element in the sepulchral chants of Denial of the Truth or the dense moroseness of Confess to Nothing. That spiritual pleading is oblique and not what many would associate with this sedimentary, slow-burning none-more-heavy monstrosity. At the end of the day, neither Windstein or anyone else expect or want a Crowbar party record so nobody will be disappointed.
Zero and Below was released by SPV