Crowbar - Sever The Wicked Hand
E1 Music
Sludge Metal
12 songs (52:07)
Release year: 2011
E1 Music
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

A fair few of us have been waiting for this comeback since 2005’s Lifesblood For The Downtrodden, an intriguingly forward-looking album for Crowbar that suggested almost proggy paths in the future. Sever The Wicked Hand, emerging a whole six years later, dashes that, choosing instead to firm up the band’s songwriting prowess. This is heavier than ever, with better tunes than ever, a real step forward and quite possibly the best thing Crowbar have done – although I must admit not having heard their entire catalogue. It would have been easy for Kirk Windstein to steal a few moshed-up riffs from his other project Kingdom Of Sorrow and move Crowbar towards a more hardcore territory. Kudos to the man, however, he knows what fans want and he keeps it real; this definitely belongs in the sludge world.

As cathartic a crawl through misery as ever, Kirk’s recent success in kicking alcohol addiction (as told in the lyrics) doesn’t mean Crowbar has a cheerier disposition. This is heavy, depressing stuff, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Yet like all the best doom, that ray of hope is there, keeping you moving through the mire when you’d rather give up and drown. Kirk is the human voice of endured pain, striding out through the pain and misery of life, and it’s astonishing to consider that he’s been doing it for twenty years now. If you want a summary of what Crowbar are about, this more than sums it up – joined by Kingdom Of Sorrow’s Matthew Brunson (guitar) Goatwhore’s Patrick Bruders (bass) and Soilent Green’s Tommy Buckley (drums), Kirk unleashes riff after riff as his powerful voice howls so compellingly.

From the first moments of opening track Isolation (Desperation) it’s clear that the production is much better than Lifesblood...’s, the bass especially losing that slightly annoying clunky sound and taking its natural place beneath the strident guitars without becoming inaudible. The drumming is the best it’s been on Crowbar albums, Tommy Buckley’s varied styles a real strength that underpins the rest of the music. And, of course, the songs are terrific, never afraid to mine a powerful riff for all it’s worth or allow feedback to fill empty moments. The band are skilled enough to make both strengths – the way the title track locks into a perfect groove and pounds it shows the band enjoy this sort of music as much as the fans, and the none-more-doom introduction to Liquid Sky And Cold Black Earth is painfully good. Let Me Mourn’s ten-ton groove shows Pantera fans just how it’s goddamn done, whilst the vocal performance epitomises manly sorrow perfectly, an expression of weakness without losing one iota of strength; something few metal bands are capable of.

Of course, a crowbar being something you hit people with as much as anything, there are plenty of songs with real oomph and bite. The Cemetery Angels’ angry roar is as compelling as any miserable ramble, and it wouldn’t be a Crowbar album without a coruscating anthem that demands headbanging respect – there are several here, but As I Become One takes the prize even with the melodic middle section a la old Metallica. Don’t only expect a sore neck, however, as middle-of-the-album interlude A Farewell To Misery’s ominous male choir will send shivers down your spine. Other tracks like Protectors Of The Shrine and Cleanse Me Heal Me soon bring back the riffage, and the crushing sadness of Echo An Eternity will almost make you forget all about it, anyway. Finale Symbiosis finishes the album in style with one of the best songs the band have ever written, steamroller sorrow and heavy riffs kicking you in the teeth as Kirk’s weary voice brings the album to a close, having kept the quality level high throughout. All killer, no filler – a brilliant listen that keeps you coming back for more, a triumph for a severely underrated band that deserves the score given and all the success in the world.

An aside to finish; I’ve seen some harsh criticism for this album from certain quarters because of the apparent Christian leaning of some of the lyrics. Ridiculous! I’m about as atheist as they come but this is the farthest thing possible from a preachy album. The likes of Echo An Eternity where Kirk talks about ‘a ray of light to save this dying world’ seem more likely to be talking about a close family member than Jesus – his daughter, perhaps, from ‘though miles away you’re there for me/so wonderful so wise beyond your years’. Even lines like ‘through grace from God I’ll see tomorrow’ don’t automatically mean that Kirk has found Christ, but even if he has, so what? He’s as entitled to his beliefs as any ha’penny Satanist, and the story told in the lyrics of a man battling as harsh an addiction as alcoholism is a compelling and moving one that a spiritual dimension can only give weight to. I’m always simultaneously amused and bemused at how some people can’t emotionally connect with music that differs from their own views in some small but oh-so-significant way. It’s almost like they think they’ll catch an infection from bands that say something different to them – metal’s general resistance to Christianity a wonderful example of this baseless hysteria. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings with our own stories to tell, our own portraits to paint, and religion is but one colour in a vast palette – you may not choose it yourself, but that doesn’t mean someone else can’t construct something wonderful with its help.

MySpace
Killing Songs :
Sever The Wicked Hand, Liquid Sky And Cold Black Earth, Let Me Mourn, As I Become One, I Only Deal In Truth, Echo An Eternity, Cleanse Me Heal Me, Symbiosis
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Crowbar that we have reviewed:
Crowbar - Symmetry in Black reviewed by Andy and quoted 91 / 100
Crowbar - Broken Glass reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Crowbar - Equilibrium reviewed by Danny and quoted 75 / 100
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