CROWBAR “Zero and Below”

By The Great Sun Jester

Kirk Windstein and CROWBAR return with a new ten song collection entitled “Zero and Below”. It’s the first since the band’s 2016 album “The Serpent Only Lies” and the six year lay off hasn’t slowed CROWBAR’s momentum nor dulled their edginess. It is predictable, if not expected, that a band with a three decades plus history might settle for less challenging fare than in their salad days, but not so with CROWBAR.

Windstein and crew are as engaged as ever. “Zero and Below” open blazing with the high-velocity riffing of “The Fear That Binds You”. CROWBAR soon shifts gears, however, when the verses hit. The band reins in the tempo and locks down on a stuttering groove that grinds listeners into submission. Duane Simoneaux’s production and mixing charge the band’s material with the urgency it deserves.

Windstein digs in deep for “Her Evil is Sacred” and delivers one of the album’s best vocals. “Zero and Below” likewise boasts a memorably pulverizing assortment of riffs and they focus listeners’ attention on a crucial part of their presentation. These riffs aren’t SABBATH pastiches twice removed but, instead, lurch or grind forward in unpredictable ways. They are recognizable but, ultimately, individual.

The romping “Chemical Godz” is a take no prisoners rocker and ideal choice for the album’s first single. CROWBAR keeps their foot on the gas for the bulk of the track, but it doesn’t lose any of its energy when the up-tempo gallop shifts for the song’s chorus. It’s another mark of a veteran band in fine form when they can ably maintain an unified sound while each track nonetheless stands apart. CROWBAR’s “Zero and Below” is no exception.

Todd Strange’s red-lined fuzz bass blasts your speakers apart opening the delightfully titled “Bleeding From Every Hole” and CROWBAR is off to the races. The breakneck intro inevitably slows into one of the album’s most unforgiving riffs. It’s a definite live staple waiting to happen and the vocals growl out every word with undeniable relish. “Crush Negativity” mixes things up a little by keeping things at a molasses-level crawl until deep into the song’s second half.

Running just over the five and half minute mark, the title song is clearly intended as the album’s definitive statement. It underlines the bleak point of view presiding over the release as a whole, a point further accentuated by the vocal effects lain over Windstein’s voice. It’s a slow strangle instead of a garroting. It’s a bucket of blood finish to a stirring return – CROWBAR’s “Zero and Below” is cut from the same uncompromising cloth as the band’s past efforts and worthy of your time.