Neale from the Birmingham Live team went to find out what Crowbar had to offer at the 02 Institute. American sludge metal was a genre I’d never been aware of. To me, the word ‘sludge’ implies slow and thick; if not dark. Well I couldn’t have called it any better; the riffs came in slow and deliberately drawn out; the music was thick and abrasive; and the lyrics were dark.
Crowbar themselves are considered pioneers of the genre; with it’s blending of hardcore and doom metal elements; the riff is becoming the centre piece of the song once again in a genre which rarely encorporates solos. Immediate comparisons could be made with Lamb of God with their loud pummeling riffs and tuned down guitars.
A staggering 67% of their setlist was released in the 90’s; 4 from their self titled 1993 album ‘Crowbar’, 2 from ‘Broken Glass’ (1996) and 2 from ‘Odd Fellows Rest’ (1998). Songs such as ‘High Rate Extinction’ and ‘All I Had (I Gave)’ gave the audience a taste of what was to come; riffs, riffs and more riffs. Hints of an early Black Sabbath influence weren’t hard to miss; frontman Kirk Windstein’s hardcore influenced lyrics added tempo to the beefy bass and drums. The crowd were nodding their heads en masse.
One of their newer songs ‘To Build a Mountain’ released in 2001, was thrown in to mix things up and by no means was it any less heavy. This song was one of my favourites of the night and saw Kirk’s inspirational, hard-hitting lyrics really add something different to their set. Gem.
Continuing to pick and choose from their mile long back catalogue of albums; they then played ‘Cemetary Angels’ (2011) which had a suprisingly fast tempo and an equally good breakdown; followed by ‘Walk with Knowledge Wisely’ (2014) in which their doom metal elements became obvious with Kirk’s vocals becoming guttural and demonic. They ended their violent jump into newer music with ‘Plasmic and Pure’ (2016) which could have easily been from their earliest album with Tommy Buckley’s groovy drumming matching Crowbar’s earlier drummer Jimmy Bower perfectly.
They then ended their set back in their roots, with ‘Existence is Punishment’, ‘Like Broken Glass’ and ‘I Have Failed’ ensuring the crowd were headbanging right up until the end.
Crowbar challenges the way audiences think about genres and breaks the mould; encorporating different elements to preserve their own unique sound and without a doubt have already left a well deserved mark in the history books of the metal scene.
Reviewer and Photographer: Neale Hayes