CROWBAR - Sever the Wicked Hand CD
Before I even get into the music I'd like to point out a few things in my not so humble opinion. I think E1 Music (Entertainment One) is a label where good bands go to become average. Remember those releases last year by ZOROASTER and HIGH ON FIRE? Yeah so when I saw this was on E1, I literally mumbled "oh no". Secondly since it's been six years since CROWBAR's last release I'm guessing every review from here on out that you read will start out with the words, "it's been six years since CROWBAR's last release". Finally CROWBAR has always been a decent band but unfortunately was overshadowed by others. For years it was EYEHATEGOD, whose drummer Jimmy Bower also played in CROWBAR, and of course DOWN, who Kirk Windstein also plays in. Still they have garnered a dedicated fan base who have latched onto their slow to mid-tempo sludge metal with Windstein's bellowing vocals and joyless lyrics.
With that said Sever the Wicked Hand will be nothing new to the ears of fans. The opener "Isolation" is typical CROWBAR mid-tempo sludge with those chunky riffs that everyone copies nowadays. They just don't sound right unless you've got Windstein's vocals backing em up. "Isolation" bleeds well into the faster paced title cut, so well that it could have been one longer song instead of two. "Sever the Wicked Hand" is a good reminder of their past when flirtations with hardcore were common place. "Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth" is more familiar territory revisited but this time it's back to the MELVINS influence. Windstein's voice invoking more pain and sorrow in one song than in most people's lifetimes. It's at this point in the release where things start to change and I don't think in a good way. "Let Me Mourn" sounds a little too QUEENS OF THE STONEAGE especially with the multi-tracked vocals early on. Even with the heavy handed riffs it still sounds like "radio friendly" pop groove metal destined for more mainstream than extreme. "The Cemetery Angels" starts off good with another hardcore influenced riff but once again it's those on again off again multi-tracked vocals which turn it into pop crap. The best part is how it ends with solid sledgehammer riffs that slip away.
"As I Become One" brings things back to the green by finally adding some defined and well perfected NOLA sound to this release. DOWN fans will appreciate this cut. "A Farewell to Misery" is a wispy instrumental, except for the choir vocals hanging in the background. It's a throwaway track that could have been done on piano alone and on someone else's release. "Protectors of the Shrine" and "I Only Deal in Truth" are more sludge rock with no real excitement save for a short Iomni inspired solo on the latter track. "Echo of Eternity" is probably the most depressing cut on Sever the Wicked Hand, in a good way of course. It has that crushing slow riffage with Windstein's vocals crying out like a depressed beast. "Cleanse Me Heal Me" is more chunky chuggy modern hardcore, like a leftover from KINGDOM OF SORROW. The last cut on here, "Symbiosis", with it's syrupy SABBATH inspired sludge is another winner of a track. That's one way to keep people listening all the way through in an era when people decide whether they like or dislike a release based on the first three cuts. Since I've touched on the matter Sever the Wicked Hand is a decent release. Long time fans will no doubt agree on that assessment. Everyone else, well they use shovels.