To be perfectly honest, the video below for “Walk with Knowledge Wisely” from Crowbar‘s latest outing, Symmetry in Black, is the first I’m hearing of the record. A “promo stream” for the album, which came out on Tuesday, has been sitting in my inbox for a few weeks, but I haven’t clicked on it, because what the hell? I click on it, feel the need to review it, take the time, dig the album, and then add it to the growing list of CDs I want to buy but can’t afford. Super. Better to save myself the trouble of being bummed out and not listen in the first place.
“Walk with Knowledge Wisely” has some continuity with “The Cemetery Angels” (video here), which served as a single from 2011’s Sever the Wicked Hand (review here), in that it rounds out with a massive-sounding slowdown. They don’t milk quite as much this time around — not that I’ll complain either way — but the point definitely gets made, and the point seems to be that well over 20 years on, Crowbar still serve as a litmus test for sonic weight.
Looks like they’ll get on that list after all. It goes like this:
Crowbar, “Walk with Knowledge Wisely” official video
CROWBAR DEBUTS NEW MUSIC VIDEO FOR “WALK WITH KNOWLEDGE WISELY”
SYMMETRY IN BLACK OUT NOW!
Well known NOLA earthquake purveyors CROWBAR have debuted a brand new music video for their single “Walk With Knowledge Wisely.” Directed by Mike Holderbeast (DOWN, EYEHATEGOD), this is the first of two videos we’ll see from the band’s all new LP SYMMETRY IN BLACK that debuted last week. “For this video we decided to let the music do the talking. Working with Mike was a breeze and a pleasure. He has filmed many of our live shows and he is a true professional.” says frontman Kirk Windstein.
Symmetry in Black tracklisting: 1. Walk With Knowledge Wisely 2. Symmetry In White 3. The Taste Of Dying 4. Reflection Of Deceit 5. Ageless Decay 6. Amaranthine 7. The Foreboding 8. Shaman Of Belief 9. Teach The Blind To See 10. A Wealth Of Empathy 11. Symbolic Suicide 12. The Piety Of Self-Loathing
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The good news is that Crowbar are touring. The good news is also that Crowbar are writing songs for a new album. I guess there really isn’t any bad news on this one. Crowbar‘s last album, 2011’s Sever the Wicked Hand(review here), found the New Orleans sludge mainstays embracing the influence of many of the bands who followed in their discordant wake, working with producer Zeuss (Hatebreed, Shadows Fall, etc.) and taking on a more modern metal feel throughout the tracks. Of course, a song like the single “The Cemetery Angels” (video here) still had room for a landmark slowdown, but there’s no telling what Crowbar‘s 10th full-length might bring when it surfaces.
And maybe the idea with this tour is to road-test some new songs. The band recently parted ways with bassist Pat Bruders, so no word either on who’s handling the low end (other than everyone). Either way, Crowbar getting back out for a stint is a good thing, and if it’s new material or old, new members or old, the safe bet is it’s going to be loud. Crowbar will also perform at the 2013 Housecore Horror Film & Music Fest at Emo’s East in Austin, Texas, which runs Oct. 25-27 with Down, Goblin, Pig Destroyer and many more on the bill.
Here are the dates:
Crowbar and White Light Cemetery !!
Friday 11/29 Houston TX @Scout Bar Saturday 11/30 Dallas TX @Trees Sunday 12/01 Austin TX @Dirty Dog Thursday 12/05 Tyler TX @Clicks Friday 12/06 Shreveport LA @Riverside Warehouse Saturday 12/07 Lafayette LA @The Station May have more dates in week of 12/01 Thanks for all your support!!! Will post any additions as they come !!!
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Joe LaCaze, 1971-2013
He was the only drummer I ever saw snort something on stage. Word started coming through last night on Facebook of the passing of Eyehategod drummer Joe LaCaze. Details at this point are sketchy, and by that I mean nil, but tributes have begun pouring in for LaCaze, who had more than ably handled the task of solidifying the chaos of Eyehategod’s sonic malevolence since 1989, playing on their four studio full-lengths and sundry other releases and touring the world with the groundbreaking sludge five-piece.
Eyehategod just wrapped a 15-date UK and European stint in Toulouse, France, on Aug. 20 and were scheduled to play three special shows in September to mark their 25th anniversary as a band, including a return to the Rocks Off Concert Cruise in Manhattan and an appearance at Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Horror Film Fest in Austin, Texas. Word of a new album had also begun to spread again with the release last year of the new single “New Orleans is the New Vietnam,” which had been Eyehategod’s first non-compilation studio output since 2004. Their last full-length was 2000’s Confederacy of Ruined Lives.
Again, there is nothing really made public at this point about the circumstances of his passing or any official word from the band (I’ll update when I see some), but LaCaze — who also drummed in Eyehategod offshoots Outlaw Order and The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight — leaves behind a formidable presence within what’s inarguably sludge’s greatest influence. In his attitude and his style, he was the swinging rudder steering a tornado and across classic albums like 1992’s In the Name of Suffering, 1993’s Take as Needed for Pain, and 1996’s Dopesick, he solidified a legacy that few can match.
The Obelisk sends heartfelt condolences to the friends, family, bandmates and anyone else who knew LaCaze. He will be missed.
Eyehategod released this statement today:
Joseph M. LaCaze, New Orleans native and drummer for Eyehategod, Mystick Krewe of Clearlight and Outlaw Order passed away on Aug. 23rd in New Orleans after a very successful five week UK and European tour with EHG.
He also performed ceremonial voodoo drumming and in numerous solo experimental electronic projects. Doctors confirmed to family members the cause as respiratory failure. He also suffered from severe long term asthma.
An account is set up for the benefit of his daughter Lilith LaCaze. Checks can be made payable to the Lilith LaCaze or Joseph LaCaze donation fund at any Capital One Bank in any city.
Mystick Krewe of Clearlight are one of those bands who, once you hear them, you just want more. And to that impulse, the only answer is really “too bad,” because there just isn’t that much out there. The band, led by Jimmy Bower of EyeHateGod/Down, only ever released one full-length — a self-titled in 2000 on Tee Pee — and splits with Acid King and The Obsessed (the latter a single with A and B side Lynyrd Skynyrd covers) before fizzling out. As late as 2004, they had a track appearance on the High Volumecompilation released via High Times, but that’s the last heard from the instrumental classic heavy rockers to date. Once you’ve heard it all, there’s no place else to go.
In that regard, that makes the two tracks they included on the 2001 Acid King split all the more special. Featuring guest contributions from Wino on vocals and ebow, the two tracks “Buzzard Hill (My Backyard)” and “Veiled” that made up Mystick Krewe‘s portion of the split — which was subtitled The Father, the Son and the Holy Smoke in ultimate stonerly fashion — were a moment never to be repeated. At the time, Spirit Caravan were releasing their second album, Elusive Truth, and the next year, Bower would return to Down to record and release Down II: A Bustle in Your Hedgerow, leaving little time for a lower-profile project like Mystick Krewe of Clearlight, however righteous their jams may have been.
And while those who got down with their organ-heavy boogie the first time have held out vague hopes for a follow-up full-length, it’s yet to happen. Never say never in a world where even Black Flag can reunite, but I’m not exactly holding my breath for new Clearlight material anytime soon. Call me crazy.
So enjoy “Buzzard Hill (My Backyard)” for what it is. Wino gives an especially killer performance, and if you’ve never had the chance to check it out, I think you’ll find it’s worth the time. Happy Wino Wednesday:
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
You’d need a checklist like on the back of a G.I. Joe action figure to keep up with all the splits and EPs Louisiana sludgers Thou put out, but when it comes to actual full-lengths, they occur somewhat less frequently, and so the news of a 2013 release for Heathen– their fourth behind the also-single-word titles Summit(2010), Peasant (2008) and Tyrant (2007) — is welcome. The band put the album to tape at the Living Room Studio in Algiers, LA, and it’ll reportedly top 60 minutes, which if you’re keeping track, is a whole lot o’ sludge.
Adam from Gilead Media sent over confirmation of Thou’s progress in the label’s latest newsletter:
I spent January 5th-8th down in New Orleans hanging out with Thou while they finished up tracking for their new full-length album, Heathen.
It was great to get out of Wisconsin for a bit–particularly after 14 inches of snow in the last month and a half–and spend some time in a drastically different environment. Especially watching things come together on the new Thou record. Many thanks to the guys for hosting me while I was down there. Always a pleasure to spend some time with my favorite Louisiana folks.
Recording took place at The Living Room Studio in Algiers, LA, engineered by James Whitten. Heathen should be released on CD by Gilead Media in June, after James completes mixing and Adam Tucker at Signaturetone Recording gives it the ol’ mastering treatment. Vinyl should be ready around the same time, but we haven’t ironed out if the band will be releasing it themselves or not. I need to keep hammering away at Bryan to let me take care of it.
The album will ultimately clock in at around 60 minutes, their longest single piece of work to date.
Posted in Reviews on September 21st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
The carton from which Lo-Pan frontman Jeff Martin is drinking in the candid picture above reads “Boxed Water is Better.” There’s a life lesson in there somewhere, but mark my words, I have no clue what it might be.
After bolting from a school obligation in Newark and stopping only to grab sushi takeout on my way to Brooklyn for the BrooklynVegan/The Obelisk-presented gig at Union Pool with The Brought Low, Lo-Pan and Suplecs. I was excited to see the bands and glad it had stopped raining from earlier in the day, but more than either of those, I was just in a hurry to get there.
Being involved in booking and promoting shows is nerve-wracking work, and to those who do it on a regular basis — and that includes Fred from BrooklynVegan, who invited me to be a part of the show out of the blue and the kindness of his heart — much respect. I can’t imagine being responsible for making people show up somewhere, trying to draw a crowd. I have a hard enough time getting my own ass off the couch, let alone anyone else’s.
That said, if e’er a rock bill in Brooklyn was going to do it, it was this one. With the two-day Small Stone Records showcase in Philadelphia this weekend featuring all three of these bands (and many others), I was thinking of the show as an unofficial warm-up, a kind of unofficial mini-showcase — but really, however you phrase it, it was a killer night. The Brought Low went on at 9:30, and if you looked back from there, you wasted your time.
I don’t know how many times I’ve said it at this point, but every time I see them affirms my opinion that The Brought Low are the best rock band in New York. They played a set that felt short, but pulled probably the night’s biggest crowd. The two faster cuts from their recent Coextinction Recordings EP, “Army of Soldiers” and “Black River” — on which bassist Bob Russell took lead vocals from guitarist Ben Smith — sounded great, and the material from last year’s Third Record was no less thrilling than when I heard it the last time I saw them in December. Nick Heller‘s drumming behind Smith‘s come-a-creepin’ guitar line on “My Favorite Waste of Time” gave me a newly-revitalized appreciation for that song.
That was about as subdued as they got. The rest of their time was devoted to energetic, upbeat songs like “Blues for Cubby” off of 2006’s Right on Time, which was another highlight. They were probably the perfect way to kick off the show, and set a high bar for Lo-Pan, who I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen this year at this point (another to come Friday in Philly). Union Pool‘s sound suited them well as they ran through tracks from the instantly classic Salvador, released earlier this year.
Guitarist Brian Fristoe played probably the best and most engaged set I’ve seen from him — Lo-Pan‘s stage configuration puts the instruments out front and the aforementioned Jeff Martin in the rear, and Fristoe is usually pretty subdued compared to drummer Jesse Bartz and bassist Skot Thompson, seemingly preferring to let the fuzz and the riffs do the talking — but it didn’t wind up doing him any favors. Late in the set, he broke a string and the considerable momentum Lo-Pan had built coming off “Bird of Prey” took a substantial hit.
It didn’t stop them. Jokes were tossed back and forth in the break while Fristoe changed out the string, and Lo-Pan was tight enough that when they picked back up and closed out with “Generations,” I didn’t hear another word about the string. In talking to the band before and after they played, they said they were well rested, and they played like it. Comparing it to a few weeks back at Stoner Hands of Doom XI, they were pretty great then, but better last night. Clearly just a band at the top of their game making the most of their time on the road. It’s exciting to watch them.
And what to say about Suplecs? The New Orleans trio’s bassist Danny Nick mentioned from the stage that it was the band’s first time in Brooklyn since opening for Clutch and The Hidden Hand at L’Amour in 2004. Last time I saw them was right around then as well, at South by Southwest that year. So seven years and two albums later, they loaded onto the Union Pool stage and let loose with songs from across their discography. I missed the start, but came back in shortly thereafter in time for the anthemic punk chorus of “Stand Alone” from 2011’s Mad Oak Redux, which carried even more heft live, Nick and guitarist Durel Yates sharing vocal duties and driving the rhythms nailed down by the stellar drumming of Andrew Preen.
“White Devil” from 2001’s Sad Songs… Better Days made my night, plain and simple. And that Suplecs followed it up with their take on The Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” which was included on the same album tacked to the more shuffling “Unstable” was even more righteous, but what was most striking about their performance wasn’t even how tight the band was — 15 years of a solid lineup will do that — but just how much diversity there is in their material.
Maybe it’s harder to hear on their records (though I would and have argued that their studio stuff has much to offer in terms of personality), but throughout the course of their time, it occurred to me just how many different roads Suplecs was taking the audience, from the hardcore punk of “Stand Alone” to the ultra-stonerly riffing of “White Devil” and “Dope Fu,” to the extended jams and solos they fused into the latter half of their set, to the off-the-cuff take on early Metallica — I think it was “Four Horsemen” — they threw into their finale. Yates, Nick and Preen made all these changes and shifts work, so that if you weren’t paying attention, you hardly even noticed the movement from one to the next.
On a night of impressive feats, that of Suplecs was as appropriate a finish as The Brought Low‘s was a start, and for that, and for the utterly transcendent fuzz of Lo-Pan in between (yeah, yeah, I know, I’m a nerd for Lo-Pan), the show was perfect. The crowd was filled with good people, Union Pool‘s sound is killer, and I even managed to make it back to my foggy river valley in New Jersey without running out of gas. I couldn’t possibly have asked more from the show than I got.
And for that, I owe Fred from BrooklynVegan thanks. I’m no promoter, and I don’t know squat about putting on shows, but Fred was cool enough to ask me if I wanted to be involved and it was hugely appreciated. Thanks too to everyone who came out and made it as special as it was. If I needed another reason to be stoked for Philly this weekend (I didn’t), this was it.
Posted in Features on April 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was a long road that finally brought New Orleans trio Suplecs to Small Stone Records and the 2011 release of their fourth album, Mad Oak Redoux. After putting out their debut, 2000’s Wrestlin’ with My Lady Friend, and second album, 2002’s Sad Songs… Better Days, Man’s Ruin Records collapsed. A negative experience that apparently continues to this day with This Dark Reign Recordings soured Suplecs‘ reissue of the latter, and although tours alongside Clutch helped get their name out to the stoner rock underground, they never were quite able to capitalize on it the way some other acts were.
All this, of course, pales in comparison to the devastation Hurricane Katrina wrought on their hometown in August 2005. After retreating to Austin, Texas, for a time and still living out of a FEMA trailer upon his return, bassist/vocalist Danny Nick oversaw the release of the third Suplecs album, the PepperKeenan-produced Powtin’ on the Outside, Pawty on the Inside through local Nola imprint Nocturnal Records that same year. This too would prove a less than satisfactory situation for the band, although obviously they had much bigger things on their mind at the time.
Following more personal trials, in 2008, they recorded their fourth album again through Nocturnal, but work, real life and other such considerations got in the way, and when Suplecs finally approached Small Stone about a deal the next year, label honcho Scott Hamilton sent them northward to Mad Oak Studios to re-record their latest batch of material with engineer Benny Grotto. The resulting and appropriately-titled Mad Oak Redoux (review here), is a crowning achievement for the simple fact that it finally got released. For a while there, it was looking kind of grim.
The songs on Mad Oak Redoux contain the sort of cathartic release one would have to expect. Tracks like “FEMA Man” deal with the aftermath of Katrina, while “Tried to Build an Engine” tackles some of the more human elements that can bring a person down. If nothing else, Mad Oak Redoux is a triumph for Suplecs on the level of the persistence it took to realize it. More importantly, though, it rocks.
Danny Nick — joined in Suplecs by guitarist/vocalist Durel Yates and drummer Andy Preen — took time out for a phoner before the band’s trip to this year’s South by Southwest in Austin. We discussed what they and what he personally had been through in the six years since the release of the third album, everything it took to get the new one out, the band’s Mardi Gras rock and roll drive-bys, signing to Small Stone, and much more.
Complete 4,800-word Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy. Special thanks to Larry Stern for the photos from SXSW.
Posted in Reviews on February 8th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Released six years to the day from its predecessor, 2005’s Lifesblood for the Downtrodden, the latest album from Crowbar, dubbed Sever the Wicked Hand (E1 Music), finds the New Orleans sludge progenitors embarking on a full-circle turn of their own influence. With visual layout by Mike D. of Killswitch Engage, mixing and mastering by Zeuss (Shadows Fall, etc.), management by Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta – with whom Crowbar guitarist/vocalist/central-figure Kirk Windstein also plays in Kingdom of Sorrow – and a take on their traditional sludgy sound that seems at times to favor the kind of heavy breakdowns that the subsequent generation of metallers made their name on, it could easily be said that Crowbar are now under the influence of those whom they most influenced. Listening to a song like “Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth,” even acknowledging that the ultra-groovy breakdown is nothing new to the Windstein musical/riff-writing arsenal (he’s been doing it since the early ‘90s to great affect), on Sever the Wicked Hand, the approach is given a musical context it didn’t have even six years ago.
And why not? A lot’s happened in that time. The already-noted Kingdom of Sorrow has released two albums, and Down – the Southern metal supergroup in which Windstein joins C.O.C.’s Pepper Keenan on guitar – released their third album to huge acclaim and commercial success on the road. On perhaps a more personal note, Windstein’s sobriety is a topic of discussion lyrically on several of the Sever the Wicked Hand tracks – “Cleanse Me, Heal Me,” “As I Become One” and the title cut –and a song like the late-arriving ballad, “Echo an Eternity” seems to be not much more than your typical “rocker’s song about his kid,” if given the twist of being run through the typically Crowbar, slow-played, downtuned interpretation. That said, the lyrical appeal that runs throughout Sever the Wicked Hand, and indeed across Crowbar’s whole discography, is Windstein’s unflinching honesty. If what that brings out of his venerably guttural voice in 2011 is love for his child and his struggle to stay sober, I’m not about to fault him for that. I’d rather take what’s heartfelt than something born out of kowtowing to the expectations either of fans or critics.
Among the critiques I’ve heard of Sever the Wicked Hand is that, “it’s awfully fast,” and indeed, upon hearing advance-leaked cut “The Cemetery Angels,” I thought the same thing, even as that song breaks into one of the slowest riffs on the album for its second half. Tracks like “Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth” and closer “Symbiosis” offer plenty of the languid pacing Crowbar is known for, and I’ll go further to say it’s a myth that Crowbar only plays slow. Some of their greatest early-career triumphs – songs like “All I Had I Gave” from 1993’s self-titled and “Waiting in Silence” from the 1991 Obedience Thru Suffering debut – relied on the juxtaposition between fast and slow parts, and that holds true for the Sever the Wicked Hand material as well. Windstein at this point knows what works in Crowbar, and he makes good use of their solidified sonic pastiche on “Protectors of the Shrine” and centerpiece “As I Become One,” which breaks into a melodic guitar interplay between Windstein and fellow six-stringer Matt Brunson that helps break the intensity Sever the Wicked Hand’s first half and set up the 3:45 ambient interlude “A Farewell to Misery” – itself a launch point for the record’s back end.
If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to have Kirk Windstein yell at you with his hood up while standing at the bottom of a stone staircase (and who hasn’t?), ArtistDirect just debuted this new video for the track “The Cemetery Angels” off Crowbar‘s upcoming release, Sever the Wicked Hand. Heavy:
Posted in Reviews on December 10th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
They’re from New Orleans, they play sludge, and they’re friends with Philip Anselmo, but they’re not EyeHateGod and they’re not Crowbar. Housecore Records upstarts haarp (properly written sans capitalization and with the double-A, much to the chagrin of Microsoft Word’s autocorrect function) make their full-length debut with The Filth, an aptly-titled hour of sludgy malevolence, more modernly metallic than the prior-mentioned Nola outfits, and capped off with brutal (again, in the metal sense) vocals courtesy of Shaun Emmons, who fronts the old-school single-guitar four-piece with a three-layer approach: high screams, mid-range gutteral bellows and low growls. Across The Filth’s nine tracks, he’s consistently a focal point, but there’s room left for the riffs of Grant Tom as well. It seems haarp are interested mostly in being as heavy and as loud as possible at all times.
That isn’t an approach I’m about to degrade. It works for haarp, and from the start of the album with “The Rise, the Fall” (companioned by closer, “The Fall, the Rise”), they prove they’re good at it. Doesn’t do much for dynamics, but haarp leave changing tempos to handle most of that, drummer Keith Sierra Jr. seeming to land no less heavily on his kit when playing slow or fast, and bassist Ryan Pomes opening The Filth highlight “A New Reign” with deeply metallic rumble. There are some flashes of melody in Tom’s guitar work on that track, and on the closer, but they’re mostly swallowed in the wall of noise brought out in the production, which makes the overall haarp sound engulfing. Scott Hull mastered The Filth and Housecore’s engineer-in-residence David “The Puma” Troia recorded with Anselmo himself credited as producer, so the band comes out of it sounding clear and full, though Emmons’ vocals are disproportionally high in the mix at times. A cut like nine-minute centerpiece “Peerless” dominates, but listening, I can hear the mute at the end of each rhythmic snippet of screaming, and it distracts me from the music surrounding.
Posted in Reviews on December 6th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
After the experience of seeing Entombed at Championship Bar and Grill in scenic Trenton, New Jersey, I knew I had to go back for Crowbar. It’s about a two-hour ride from where I live, but that room is too small to miss it. The difference is, instead of foolishly putting myself right up front for Jersey hardcore’s finest to punch at and spill my beer, I hung back and actually got to enjoy the set.
Crowbar‘s first tour in however many years, blah blah blah. More important as far as I’m concerned is how rusty is the band behind guitarist, vocalist and recent Obelisk interviewee Kirk Windstein, and how rusty is the man himself? Crowbar‘s been playing shows for a couple months now, and I was ultra-glad to have the chance to see them. The sound at Championship’s wasn’t ideal, but they made the best of it, and the crowd ate it up, moshing, chanting the band’s name, throwing fists, etc. For me, it was just such a relief to see Crowbar again. I couldn’t help but smile.
They played the hits: “Planets Collide,” “I Have Failed,” “Thru the Ashes,” “New Dawn,” “Conquering.” “Lasting Dose” from 2001’s Sonic Excess in its Purest Form was especially well-received, and the title cut from the upcoming Sever the Wicked Hand — Crowbar‘s first album for E1 Music, due out in February — was welcomed like an old friend. The guitars sounded low, which was a bummer, and that pushed Windstein‘s vocals way to the front. Both he and guitarist Matthew Brunson (who also contributed some unfortunate backing vocals to “Planets Collide”) were playing through Dime amps, apparently named by Dean Guitars in tribute to Dimebag Darrell, and they looked brand new. I hope they didn’t have to pay for them.
But the lack of guitar oomph aside, there was zero to complain about in terms of the setlist, the Yuengling special at the bar or anything else. I didn’t see any of Black Tusk‘s set, but heard a bit from outside, and they sounded meh, for whatever that’s worth. Crowbar played an hour and did no encore, ending with “All I Had I Gave,” and it was a professional if distant set. I noted the O’Douls on Windstein‘s amps, and his eyes looked like they were seeing the show a new way. I think everyone’s pulling for him for doing what he needs to do, and if there was a problem with the show, it wasn’t that the singer was drunk. Actually, as his voice was pumped high through the Championship’s P.A., he sounded better than I’ve ever heard him.
Getting to split out of there at about 11:30 was a bonus, and since it was Trenton and I’ve never been down there without seeing flashing lights, the cops showed up to tend to some dude on the ground outside. I don’t know what the deal was there, but at this point it’s just part of the experience. Might as well list it on the website: “Tonight: Crowbar, Black Tusk, A Life Once Lost, seven other bands… and the cops.” Good fun all around.
Kirk Windstein live photos by Lorenzo Ferraro (website here).
Posted in Features on November 24th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
On the afternoon we spoke (Friday, Nov. 12, in case anyone’s feeling precise), Crowbar guitarist, vocalist and driving-force Kirk Windstein turned in the final approved version of the artwork for his band’s first album in six years, Sever the Wicked Hand, which is due out Feb. 8, 2011. It’s their E1 Music debut, and as Windstein has seen his profile grow to new heights the past several years in bands like the supergroup Down and his Kingdom of Sorrow project with Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed, the planets look to be aligning for the most successful run Crowbar‘s had yet in their 20-plus years together.
With several months of sobriety under his belt and a cross-band support system of family and friends to back him, Windstein embarks optimistically on this new era in the band with whom he first made his name. In our discussion, he mentioned several times “leaving the negativity behind” as a theme present on Sever the Wicked Hand, and he seems to have done just that. For a guy with a reputation for such downtrodden tones and whose emotional and existential struggles have been documented lyrically across three different decades now, he seems awfully happy.
And who could begrudge him that? He’s certainly earned it, and if the leaked advance track on the album, “The Cemetery Angels” is any indicator, in addition to getting his personal life together, he hasn’t lost touch with what made Crowbar the pivotal sludge act they’ve always been. I’m sure there’s bound to be some of his trademark Crowbar ballads on Sever the Wicked Hand, but one listen to “The Cemetery Angels” and it’s clear Windstein hasn’t left out their special brand of heaviness. When he says “Bring it down!” two minutes and 20 seconds into the song (which you can hear in a YouTube clip at the bottom of the interview), he’s not just talking about tempo.
Sludge from the master thereof. Crowbar is rounded out by guitarist Matthew Brunson (a Kingdom of Sorrow bandmate), bassist Patrick Bruders and drummer Tommy Buckley, but as ever, Windstein‘s guiding the chaos. In the course of our conversation, he discussed returning to Crowbar after working for the last several years exclusively on Down and Kingdom of Sorrow, getting sober, balancing his time between bands, recording Sever the Wicked Hand, touring and much more.
I’ve heard the word sludge used to classify bands from Pro-Pain to Neurosis to Grand Funk Railroad, so let’s be clear right off the bat that when I talk about sludge, I mean ultra-aggressive, screaming doom, played slow, played angry. It’s a term as nebulous as any other, but going from that specific definition, and considering the bands I’m about to recommend who play it, we should have a pretty good basis to work from.
There are some acts who take sludge to vicious extremes — see Fistula or Sollubi — blending in elements of black metal or SunnO))) style drone minimalism, but I’m not talking about them either. Where to start with sludge is the root of the subgenre, the key formative groups who’ve made it possible for a new generation to pull the sound in the multiple directions they have.
Because I couldn’t narrow it down to five, here are seven killer sludge bands to start with:
Crowbar: Their later material actually has little in common with what’s currently thought of as sludge, but 1991’s Obedience thru Suffering and 1993’s Crowbar are essential to understanding what the sound has become. The latter (recently reissued) is a better starting point for its more memorable songs.
Eyehategod: As much an influence in lifestyle and persona as for their music, the New Orleans gods of sonic fuck-all have nonetheless produced some of sludge’s most classic material. Just not in the last decade. At all. Start with 1993’s Take as Needed for Pain.
Negative Reaction: Their early stuff was more geared to sci-fi, which made the long-running Long Island outfit unique among their viscous peers. 2000’s endofyourerror saw them start to veer away from that into more personal lyrical territory, but it’s a stunningly abrasive listen nonetheless.
A quick reissue roundup for anyone who may have missed these:
Godflesh‘s 1989 über-classic, Streetcleaner, has recently been given a two-disc reissue by Earache Records that may or may not be timed to coincide with the announcement that the band will reunite for next year’s Roadburn festival in The Netherlands. Earache, who are the last of the “metal majors” to habitually send out physical promos of albums to press, have been on a spree for the last year or two in repressing landmarks from their back catalog, and Godflesh has been no exception, as the recipient of several boxed editions and multi-album compilations. Streetcleaner is Streetcleaner, though, so it stands on its own.
With the second disc offering unreleased mixes, live tracks from 1989-1990 and rehearsal and studio demos — all of which may or may not have been heard before — the 2010 Streetcleaner is as biting as ever, and shows why over 20 years later, the band are still a much-wanted commodity. It’s one of those albums that, if you don’t have it, you probably should, so I thought it was worth a look.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the sludgy spectrum, three Crowbar records just got reissued by E1, making them more widely available than ever before thanks to the label’s far-reaching distribution. Crowbar, Live +1 and Time Heals Nothing cover the venerable New Orleans slingers’ work from 1993-1995, and though I’m not sure why E1 would go after the rights to the second album, a live EP and the third album without also reissuing 1991’s Obedience Thru Suffering debut, I’m sure they have their reasons, as they’ve been pretty on the ball since deciding it was okay to like metal again in 2008/2009.
All three discs are bare-bones, and by that I mean no bonus material, but honestly, I’m so desperate as for any Crowbar release at this point I might consider picking these up just for the sake of their being newly issued. With the band allegedly beginning a new period of activity that involved touring last month down south, heading north next month and supposedly even recording a new album, there’s plenty to hope for, and of course, guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein has been plenty busy in Kingdom of Sorrow and Down (neither of which is as good as Crowbar), but man, it’s time for some new Crowbar. Today.
Until then, this is as good as it’s going to get, and in the case of Godflesh — who I’m actively hoping won’t release a new album — it may be as good as it’s ever going to get. Sure we can sit here and complain about rehashing the same records over and over, but when you find a better way to spend time than listening to Crowbar again, you let me know.