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CROWBAR

"Sever The Wicked Hand"

BY EARTHDOG

The band dates back to 1988, when Kirk Windstein joined the premiere hardcore punk band Shell Shock in New Orleans. Here he met Jimmy Bower, who was their drummer, and both quickly became friends. The band collapsed when Mike Hatch, their guitarist, committed suicide in late 1988. The band replaced Hatch with Kevin Noonan and carried on as Aftershock, where Windstein and Bower began to play low-tuned hardcore punk mixed with doom metal. Under that name they released a demo in mid-1989, and then renamed themselves Wreqiuem. Bass player Mike Savoie left the band soon after (He went on to direct music videos for Crowbar, Down, and Pantera), and Todd Strange joined them. Then in 1990 they renamed themselves The Slugs, and released a demo in mid-1990, but the band collapsed. Kirk considered becoming the guitarist for Exhorder. But Kirk and Todd reformed the band, with Craig Nunenmacher as the drummer, who was later replaced by Tommy Buckley (Soilent Green), and Kevin Noonan again on guitar. The band renamed themselves Crowbar in mid-1991 and quickly became sludge-metal pioneers.

Moving on to 2011 and Crowbar have released their first album in 6 years titled "Sever the Wicked Hand" and it is a little different from other Crowbar albums. It is no sell-out but it seems to be targeted at a more mainstream metal audience as the album is less sludge than what you might be used to hearing from the band and it has a more typical modern-metal approach overall. People are already claiming that Kirk Windstein's sobriety has forced him into a mainstream metal figure but I don't buy that at all. Songs like "Cleanse Me, Heal Me" do carry a anti-drinking message of sorts. There is really only one song that is typical Crowbar and that is "Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth" which is based around the sludge-filled riffs you are used to hearing from the band. Elsewhere there is a lot more faster metal going on that makes this album not really sludge-metal at all. This is a disappointment to me seeing it is all the slow Crowbar tunes that turned me on to the band in the first place. However there are still some great tunes on "Sever the Wicked Hand."

"As I Become One" is one of the killer tracks, it has some infectious hooks and solid melodic guitar. "The Cemetery Angels" pulverizes and is a great tune but you'll be forgiven in thinking it is not Crowbar you are listening to but a new, modern metal act. "I Only Deal in Truth" is a track which offers elements of Crowbar's original style but with a modern edge. "Symbiosis" which is the album closer is a powerful, atmospheric tune while at the other end of the scale you get the closest thing to a ballad that Crowbar has ever done with a track titled "Let Me Mourn." The album has more fast/slow passages that ever before and while it is nothing new for the band to do this, this album has more of an emphasis on faster tempos than any of the earlier releases. "Protectors of the Shrine" is a good example of the bands new-found energy. The band have always sounded lethargic in the past with their plodding rhythms but some of this album is actually energetic! I didn't think they had it in them .to be honest.

After waiting for 6 years for a new Crowbar album, my feeling is this a bit of a let-down despite having some 5 or 6 great tracks. There are songs on here, mostly the ones I have mentioned that will become fan favorites but there is an awful lot of standardized metal that doesn't sound like Crowbar to me. I am the first to welcome change and I have always appreciated bands trying new things but I never thought of Crowbar as being a generic metal act and that is what a lot of this album sounds like. The production is great, the guitar work is top-notch and the vocals are still as guttural and brutal as ever but there is something missing from the big picture. I am sure this will attract new fans to the band and I hope they break through to a bigger audience because if one band deserves it, it is Crowbar. I have nothing but respect for the band but at least half of this album sounds luke-warm and just doesn't cut it.....5/10

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www.crowbarmusic.com