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Crowbar – Zero and Below Award winner

Crowbar
Zero and Below
by Alex Barnard at 07 March 2022, 10:25 PM

CROWBAR are Sludge Metal titans from New Orleans. “Zero and Below” is the group’s twelfth full-length album, released by MNRK Heavy on March 4, 2022.

It’s no secret to anyone who has read my reviews that CROWBAR is one of my all-time favorite bands, and this album sees the group coming back swinging after six long years of inactivity. Kirk Windstein has, of course, kept himself busy; he released his first solo album in 2020 (which is a masterpiece that showed a slightly different side to him musically without being a major departure from the style he is best known for), and he recently re-joined the New Orleans supergroup DOWN for the 25th anniversary of their seminal album “NOLA.” Still, this was another long break for the heavyweight Sludge Metal champions, as they had taken a break of similar length following the release of 2005’s “Lifesblood for the Downtrodden.” Needless to say, this album had been anticipated for a loooooong time.

One thing that really makes this record for me is that you can hear the (slight) consistency in the lineup starting to pay off. Tommy Buckley is a monster of a drummer, playing technical parts when necessary but mostly laying down mean grooves that rival those of my personal favorite CROWBAR drummer (and one of my favorite NOLA musicians all around), Jimmy Bower. Matthew Brunson’s guitar parts always compliment Kirk’s nicely, rounding out harmonies in areas when needed and adding a fatness to the nasty riffs that ensue here. And, while it is only Shane Wesley’s first album with the band, he is a welcome addition to the group, playing an integral role in developing the songs throughout the record.

Kirk Windstein is such a legend that he gets his own paragraph. The Southern riff lord is on fire on this LP, proving once again that he is the king of this style and all pretenders had better bow down before the master. How he consistently churns out pummeling, brutal and huge riffs on a regular basis is mind boggling; even though his waist-length beard may be white at this point, he still has plenty of fire left in him. And his voice – you can hear a little age in it but it’s still just as ferocious as it was on the band’s classic albums like “Odd Fellows Rest” and “Sonic Excess in its Purest Form.” When Kirk roars, he means business.

The album starts out guns blazing with “The Fear That Binds You” which features Kirk’s signature rhythmic vocal delivery and a barrage of powerful riffs. “Her Evil Is Sacred” follows, which has a real slow groove to it and reminds me of the attitude of certain tracks from some of the earlier CROWBAR records but with an updated, modern sound. The use of silence to introduce the main verse riff in this song especially evokes feelings of the band’s self-titled record. Then comes “Confess To Nothing,” which shows Kirk’s command of evolving chords in combination with his signature, simple choruses that make you feel the rage coming from his lips (“Don’t back down!”).

“Chemical Godz,” the first single from the record, is next, which brilliantly illustrates Kirk’s struggles with addiction through a catchy, Southern-Rock-on-steroids riff followed by some beautiful harmonies and spacious, melodic vocals. After that is “Denial Of The Truth,” one of the more ambient tracks on this record that is still devastatingly doomy and heavy while conveying absolute raw emotion – CROWBAR’s specialty. Following that is “Bleeding From Every Hole,” which shows off a distinctly noticeable MOTÖRHEAD influence with Shane’s booming bass riff and plenty of tempo changes to keep listeners on their feet.

After that comes “It's Always Worth The Gain,” which has a surprisingly Hard Rock feel to it, albeit with a signature CROWBAR spin on the style. “Crush Negativity,” my personal favorite track on this album, comes next, with its plodding, crushing riffs that make you want to stomp your feet and gnash your teeth like a T-Rex. “Reanimating A Lie” is another personal favorite of mine, with the vocal melody being one of the more soulful ones on this album, complimenting the devastatingly groovy riffs that pervade the song. And finally, the title track, with its multiple dynamic changes and beautifully evolving chord progressions, rounds out the track listing with the brutal aplomb that CROWBAR essentially patented.

Overall, welcome back CROWBAR! I missed you very much, and this album helped me escape the monotony and dread of daily life (such as it is today) with the same ease as the rest of the albums in your discography. Sludge Metal fans, listen to this album, and remind yourselves why CROWBAR (in the words of their illustrious front man before each show) kick your ass, because they always will.

Production: 10
Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. The Fear That Binds You
2. Her Evil Is Sacred
3. Confess To Nothing
4. Chemical Godz
5. Denial Of The Truth
6. Bleeding From Every Hole
7. It's Always Worth The Gain
8. Crush Negativity
9. Reanimating A Lie
10. Zero And Below
Lineup:
Kirk Windstein – Vocals, Guitars
Tommy Buckley – Drums
Matthew Brunson – Guitars
Shane Wesley – Bass
Record Label: MNRK Heavy
     


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