Review Summary: Crowbar's debut album is what you expect from the band: Nothing more, nothing less.
With the recent news that Crowbar are officially together again to work on a new album and play Bloodstock Open Air next year, it is inevitable that many of the band's devoted fans will listen to the entire discography. All the more reason then, to go back in time to when Crowbar were little more known as an up-and-coming sludge metal act, making their way into the world of extreme metal. The band's debut, the somewhat menacingly titled Obedience thru suffering
, is regarded by many as one of the more influential albums of the sludge metal sub-genre, and rightly so, because the album itself is simply what you expect from the band-A multitude of heavy riffs, morbid atmosphere and some of the most woeful vocals sung by a man who now looks like he could take a cannonball head on.
Although Obedience thru suffering
isn't particularly the band's most refined or indeed consistent work, it is a staple of what style Crowbar would adopt on future releases. Every song here is introduced via heavy instrumentation, and it seems to take a lifetime before Windstein even begins singing those grievous lyrics. Opener “Waiting in Silence” and the title track both hit hard with an eccentric albeit slow-burning delivery, Windstein's crooning guitar tones nicely accompanied by dull bass-lines and a relaxed, well executed drum rhythm. The moments where the band truly explode into a fury of fast-paced, aggressive riffs and solos however is where Crowbar truly excel. “Waiting in Silence” feels as if it would continue into a flurry of slow-burning, menacing sounds yet halfway through surprises the listener by bringing a whole new level of sonic violence to the recording, and album highlight “4 Walls” makes for a promising listen because it is in comparison faster than anything else on the record.
No track here varies that much, though it does take a little concentration if you really want to see the few differences in tone. “I despise” almost comes across like a mid-70s Black Sabbath towards the end and the instrumental jam, specifically as a cause of the heavy guitar and bass work, makes for a monumental finish. Both “A breed apart” and “My agony” use brief bursts of melodic music throughout to give the listener a break from all the intensity, although it is hard to discover when everything is so sludgy and overpowering in tone.
That said, Obedience thru suffering
is only suited to a minor audience, and perhaps that's why it didn't really connect with the metal world as well as the band would have hoped back then. For those who largely embrace Crowbar's onslaught of heavy, menacing sounds, Obedience thru suffering
will be perfect. However, those who simply can't get into sludge metal will be disappointed at this, and dislike it almost immediately for the obvious similarities between each song. Crowbar's first album, if anything then, is a perfect introduction to anybody wanting to discover sludge metal's true roots, and more to the point, Crowbar's beginning as a promising band.