Review Summary: The best form of "sonic excess" there is.
Crowbar’s seventh studio album, “Sonic excess in its purest form”, certainly lives up to its name. The consistent heaviness and slow-burning pace of their sound has proved to be successful for the band with each and every album they release, but it is arguable that the band had reached their creative peak on this release. Crowbar may have borrowed one or two members from fellow countrymen Acid Bath and Goatwhore, but their style has remained the same regardless of however many line-up changes they go through.
What immediately stands out on “Sonic excess…” is the level of melancholy and solemnity running its course throughout the entire album. Crowbar had written songs filled with feelings of despair and hopelessness on their previous albums, but the band’s seventh album seems to have it in spades, giving the sound in general higher levels of intensity and personality. The band’s trademark sound is still there in songs such as the monumentally heavy ‘To build a mountain’ and the equally as moving ‘Thru the ashes (I’ve watched you burn)’, yet because Windstein appears to put more emphasis on his cleaner vocal styles and the melody of his guitar work, the songs become slightly ‘nicer’ to listen to. Although the album isn’t without its fast-paced furious anthems (‘Failure to delay gratification’) or the odd mellow instrumental (‘In times of sorrow’), you’ll notice that each and every song on “Sonic excess…” is charged with more melancholy and solemnity than ever before.
Instrumentally the band has never sounded fresher or more alive. Aside from the obvious power given by Windstein’s and Sammy Pierre Duet’s (who had also played Goatwhore) guitars, the bass and drum work both give an extra layer of “sonic excess” to each song. The bass, although not as prominent as the drum or guitar work, does have brief moments of astounding performance. On ‘Counting daze’ there is an enigmatic bass interlude that seems to stop every other instrument from playing and although it is primarily used on this album to give extra heaviness (if possible) to the sound, it doesn’t stop Jeff Okoneski from justifying why he’s been chosen to play for Crowbar. Like Sid Montz on the previous album, Tony Constanza hits each drum beat on “Sonic excess…” like it’s his last, and flows beautifully with the other instruments on the strangely graceful ‘Repulsive in its splendid beauty’ as well as performing a brief solo or two on ‘Suffering brings wisdom’.
However, nothing can quite match the intensity of Kirk Windstein’s vocals, and it should be duly noted that without his voice, none of Crowbar’s works would be quite as impressive as they are said to be. The lyrical content has given off the same brooding, downbeat moods since the band’s debut album, but on “Sonic excess…” Windstein seems to have more variety regarding his vocal style. On the gargantuan ‘To build a mountain’ Windstein theorizes that “To build a mountain takes a long, long time” and even roars like an ogre on the monumental nature of both ‘Awakening’ and ‘Suffering brings wisdom’. However, Windstein seems to be even more comfortable with himself when singing in a cleaner and somewhat more melodic way, without eschewing any of the passion or the fire that charges each of the album’s eleven tracks. ‘Repulsive in its splendid beauty’ is beautifully written, and goes through a variety of different styles and tempos, yet all the way through Windstein harmonizes flawlessly when singing that “I’ll carry all your pain, believe in my words, they’ll carry all your pain”, and on the much more aggressive yet instantly memorable ‘It pours from me’ Windstein gives even more melancholy and despair to the sound when wanting to “Turn my vision to the black night sky, losing focus and I don't know why”.
Although variety isn’t the band’s strong-point, Crowbar have proved once again, for the sixth time in a row (unless you count the band’s debut as a better effort than its succeeding albums), that their style is staying put, and it won’t change until every bit of heaviness and aggression has left them for good. If you can ignore the filler material found in the instrumental ‘In times of sorrow’ or ‘Counting daze’, then “Sonic excess in its purest form” will most definitely live up to any expectations you might have.