Review Summary: Whether it is more important as a Dimebag Darrell tribute or not, "Lifesblood..." serves as yet another solid album from Crowbar.
After the release of arguably the strongest Crowbar album to date, “Sonic excess in its purest form”, it seems that Kirk Windstein wanted to spend his time with other musical projects such as Down, Black label society and even Damageplan. However, whilst there is only a four year difference between the band’s seventh album and “Lifesblood for the downtrodden”, it may have felt like an even longer wait for the band’s eighth album to every die-hard Crowbar fan. “Lifesblood for the downtrodden” is a pretty significant album in itself, because not only was Rex Brown hired to play acoustic guitar, bass and keyboards, he was also the album’s producer. It must have been a shock then, to learn that Dimebag Darrell, a former bandmate of Pantera, had been murdered at a time when Crowbar’s eighth album was still being produced. Thus Kirk Windstein has since admitted that the album is a tribute to the memory of Dimebag Darrell.
Although “Lifesblood for the downtrodden” doesn’t offer any real surprises, it still proves to be yet another solid Crowbar release. Aside from producing the album, Rex Brown spends most of his time playing bass on every song, which turns out to be quite an audible and prominent instrument throughout. The bass work on this album seems to be much more engaging and interesting than on any other Crowbar release, the heavy tones of ‘Slave no more’, ‘Fall back to zero’ and ‘Dead sun’ making for a sound worthy of any Crowbar fan’s attention. However, the one song that shows Brown as a talented musician is the album’s title track, or “Lifesblood”. Led by a solemn yet still heavy acoustic guitar and charged by graceful keyboards, Brown makes the longest song on the album the most exciting and interesting, and although it is no different to the softer songs on other Crowbar albums, it still serves as a highlight of the band’s career. Together with Windstein’s clean, harmonic vocals, “Lifesblood” is a true example of Crowbar’s best work.
There are many songs here that show Crowbar still haven’t changed their career-defining style though. Just listen to the brooding, menacing overtones of the aptly titled ‘Coming down’, or the fast-paced fury of both ‘Angel’s wings’ and ‘Underworld’. Whereas the former is a prime example of what Sludge Metal is, the latter two charge speedily along like a battering ram, crushing any other sound that tries to get in their way. There are also songs that take some time to ‘move’, but once they do, you will be grateful. ‘Fall back to zero’ naturally focuses on Rex Brown’s excellent bass work, but it shouldn’t be ignored that this song is also a great example of Crowbar’s brilliant song-writing. As the bass leads the song into a towering, epic finale, the fluent guitar work and thundering drums follow on as smoothly yet heavily as possible, giving an even darker, more menacing tone to the sound. ‘Moon’ brings powerful melancholy and brooding menace to the sound, and although it isn’t quite as moving as ‘Fall back to zero’ or ‘Lifesblood’, it is guaranteed that Windstein’s clean vocals will amaze you, even if the instrumentation doesn’t.
As always, Crowbar’s lyrical content fits well with Windstein’s brooding vocals, whether sung raw or cleanly. Naturally songs such as ‘Angel’s wings’ and ‘Underworld’ hint at one’s own personal demons and their ongoing battle to destroy them. Windstein powers through both of these songs, successfully matching the intensity and pace of the instrumentation, yet also adds a more menacing tone to their approach. However, whenever Windstein sings cleanly, the songs become even better. On the brooding ‘Coming down’ Windstein’s voice becomes somewhat mesmerizing as he sings “The walls are closing in on you, your world is coming down on you”, whereas on the sorrowful ‘Lifesblood’, he harmonizes somewhat emotionally that “Beneath this skin there lies a man, upon the cross with nails in hand, the crimson pool that lies below, forever feeds the embers glow”. Whether it’s the sometimes solemn, poetic lyrics or the brooding voice of Windstein, it should be understood that “Lifesblood for the downtrodden” just wouldn’t be the same without either.
“Lifesblood for the downtrodden” may be a tribute to the memory of Dimebag Darrell, but it is also another solid offering from a band who had by now been around for a long time. It would take the next six years to release the next album, thanks in part to Windstein’s work with countless other bands, but at least “Lifesblood for the downtrodden” will remind you why Crowbar are highly regarded as one of the best Sludge Metal bands around.