I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on Crowbar here. Fact of the matter is, the only album of theirs I’ve heard before this (in its entirety) was their previous effort, Sonic Excess in Its Purest Form. I did see them open for Pantera in 1993 though, and was thoroughly unimpressed. Of course, as a 16 year old kid transitioning to the extreme, this “fat guy metal” wasn’t quite as aurally attractive as Pantera and Slayer. With time comes acceptance though, and while I may never be president of their fan club, I’d be more than willing to join a Crowbar Appreciation Society.
Crowbar’s legacy of “fat guy metal” came about partially because of big Kirk Windstein and a bassist, Todd Strange, that made him look small. It didn’t hurt that their brand of sludge metal would be best personified as a behemoth of a man walking, running, or attempting to dance. Lifesblood for the Downtrodden continues that tradition, which should keep the fanbase of varying sizes quite happy. While the recording lineup includes bassist Rex Brown (ex-Pantera, who also co-produced the disc) and drummer Craig Nunenmacher (Black Label Society), the touring lineup is quite different, with members of Soilent Green and Goatwhore handling those duties. Ah, one must love the brotherhood of NOLA.
Not quite slow or fuzzed-out enough to be considered stoner metal, Crowbar’s brand of sludge is instantly recognizable, not only for the music but also the tortured screams of Windstein. I really see no difference between the material here and that which I’ve heard before, but it’s all solid, if a bit formulaic. Perhaps that’s part of their appeal – Crowbar has existed for more than ten years, and they have NEVER changed. To many, that’s comforting – no pesky evolution or experimentation, no incorporating new elements, just the same ol’ groove-laden sludge (Windstein wisely decided to explore another musical side with his new project, Valume Nob). For me, the stuff that makes my ears perk up and take notice is the more up-tempo songs, like “Angel’s Wings” and “Dead Sun”, definitely easier to rock out and/or pit to. Then again, the sludgier stuff, like “Coming Down” is the kind of sound that makes me want to pull my hair out and break stuff – and I mean that in a good way. It’s the same feeling conjured up by Soilent Green and the late Iron Monkey. And then . . . what the hell? The title track . . . it’s acoustic . . . and MELLOW. Remember when Pantera ended Far Beyond Driven with “Planet Caravan”? Yep, same vibe. In the end, I’ve found that the more I listen to this album, the more I find myself enjoying it, which is definitely a good sign – after all, how many albums that you loved from the start quickly lost their luster?
Shit, I really don’t think there’s much else to say. I don’t see why any Crowbar fan wouldn’t cream themselves over this new disc, and it’s typical enough Crowbar that any virgin can pop their cherry on it.