“The Serpent Only Lies”

by Thor

Louisiana’s shamans of sludge Crowbar are back with another slab of kaiju-riffing in the form of “The Serpent Only Lies,” their recently released LP.

Crowbar’s been around forever—damn near 30 years, anyway.  All along the way, this ogre of a band has been founder/guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein’s baby.  And as often as Crowbar has played musical chairs with its lineup, the band is remarkably consistent with its aesthetic.  In the early-1990s they had a t-shirt that summed up their approach perfectly: “NONE FUCKING HEAVIER.” True, that.

Like all great bands that manage to do this for any real length of time, though, Crowbar has probably traversed the apex of its summit.  The Last album of theirs that can be considered “peak-Crowbar” came out 20 years ago.  It’s been a mixed bag ever since then, with their last two efforts missing the mark a bit as far as this listener was concerned.  

And that brings us to “The Serpent Only Lies.”

Crowbar’s latest collection falls somewhere between the early masterworks and the more recent, less successful albums.

The one thing that remains the same is that Kirk Windstein is perhaps the greatest riffer in the history of truly heavy music.  His stuff is the lethal, advanced evolution of the foreboding, ominous doom that Tony Iommi started.  Windstein’s riffs are terrifying, hulking monoliths.  Period.  

The place where the band comes up a little short these days—even here on “The Serpent Only Lies”—is in the songwriting department.  Things are less focused.  The dark, angry, morass of misery and the sonic expression thereof is a little less earnest.  It’s tough to be pissed off when you’re a middle-aged dude who’s made a career playing niche metal all around the world.  And that’s okay.  I’m there, too.

The songs still articulate misery.  The riffs still crush boulders fucking flat.  It’s just that the intangible, raw core of honest emotion that inspired this material 25 years ago burns a little cooler these days, and a little less urgently.

“The Serpent Only Lies” is still a must-own for Crowbar fans and for fans of really heavy music in general.