Saturday, April 02, 2011

Crowbar: Sever the Wicked Hand (2011)

Heavy Week, Part 7


I normally don't keep up a 7-day per week posting schedule, and I don't plan to in the future. But I just had a lot to say about the really heavy music, and, yes, I wanted to throw in that April Fool's Day joke yesterday. Just in case you were wondering, yes, that's what it was.

Sever the Wicked HandCrowbar is one of the very first sludge metal bands, having been around since 1989. If you've ever wondered about the difference between sludge metal and doom metal, Crowbar is your go-to example of what pure sludge sounds like, with heavy, simple, Sabbath-inspired riffs played with that warm, sludgy tone and a hardcore-inspired attitude. Kirk Windstein's vocals are also pure sludge, bordering on hardcore tough guy but not quite venturing into that territory. Crowbar sounds like the most generic sludge metal possible, but that's for good reason: every sludge band copied them.

I'm not terribly familiar with the band's back catalog, but by all accounts Sever the Wicked Hand (their ninth) is the band's finest record. I'm not surprised, because it's very convincing. Being newly sober after essentially destroying his life (hence the title), Windstein's songwriting is great, but I also want to point out the lyrical content. Yeah, I know, I usually say lyrics don't matter, but there's an exception to every rule. Kirk claims to be a Christian, and to have always been a Christian, and it comes through in the lyrics. He accepts the fact he fucked up, acknowledges he brought pain to himself and others, wishes the best to the people he's hurt, and asks God for forgiveness. While most of what earns the "Christian metal" label falls flat because either (a) people with a perfect, unwavering faith haven't suffered enough to create good art, or (b) people who won't acknowledge imperfection in themselves can never be Trve, this falls into neither trap. It's uplifting, as written by one who has suffered, which is exactly what Christian metal should be (but rarely is).

The Verdict: No one's called it Christian metal yet, but it would easily fit the bill. And it's a perfect example of how pure sludge metal can be done well, even without evolving the form. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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