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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Album Review: Crowbar – Sever The Wicked Hand

The importance of showcasing great technique by combining it with intricate song construction seems to be paramount to survival in today’s modern metal scene. Many newbies appear to come with craft and execution pre-loaded, yet always seem to be forever searching for a personal identity and often turn to over-complicating their sound to find it. Sadly, in many instances, what their music is basically lacking is true grit and it leaves one lusting after something more base; an enduring sound that beats with a primeval heart. Crowbar are reliably one of those bands that I always turn to when this desire takes hold and with tracks like “Isolation (Depression)” and “I Only Deal In Truth” to show off, from their new album Sever The Wicked Hand, they have produced probably their sludgiest, shit-kicking fix of an album ever.

It’s been six long years since their release but, joyously, it’s a return to the Broken Glass days and that deep, thought-obliterating groove that plugs their music directly into your soul. That’s a fine base to be kicking off from but there’s more. By gathering members of Soilent Green, Goatwhore and Kingdom Of Sorrow around him, Kirk Windstein (Down/Kingdom Of Sorrow) now has pretty much a finger in every pie of the Deep South’s sludge metal community and, consequently, there is most definitely a wider range of tracks on show, from songs with an aggressive, fast attack to melodically-heavy numbers and subtler release come-downs. There’s also the fact that songs like the throbbing “Cleanse Me, Heal Me”, “A Farewell To Misery” with it’s chiming opening and chanting oratorio, and the splitting hardcore of “The Cemetery Angels” (featuring the line “You gave me wings and took the sky away” coming direct from an Alcoholics Anonymous book) indicate that the now sober Windstein is keen to use the album as a way of releasing his own inner demons. “I’m not dead yet and have been sober for four months, and I have this whole new outlook on life and a brand new spin on everything”, he explains. We do certainly benefit from this extra infusion of passion which evocatively drives the whole thing forward.

The opening three tracks leave you feeling emotionally spent as they batter about inside your skull with “Liquid Sky And Cold Blade” building up a brutish dirge so complete you’d swear that, if it were a sparring opponent, you’d collapse with exhaustion from repeatedly unleashing shots before it fell to the canvas. Following, “Let Me Mourn” has that Alice In Chains lament-fueled groove that Crowbar slip into occasionally where the vocals team up and the guitars pluck upon an invisible elastic doom. It bears a striking similarity to “Coming Down” from the Lifesblood For The Downtrodden album in that it chugs so hard it’s as if it’s sobbing itself dry. By the time “Echo An Eternity” rolls around you’ll be picking up odd traces of progressive dark rock as walking patterns over gunge-slicked guitar oddly bring Ihsahn’s latest opus to mind.

What Crowbar have taught us with Sever The Wicked Hand is that they have again proven themselves to be a class apart, finding the perfect middle ground between technique, structure and, most importantly, gentle variation within a consistent construct; a band that we can always rely on to produce brilliant simplicity of delivery at a time when metal has never been more complex.

Also online (with preview samples) @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/crowbar-sever-the-wicked-hand

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