Review Summary: Catchy, grimy and as sluggish as a depressed slug.
Let’s cut to the chase here, if you know who Crowbar are then you are not strumming your fingers or biting your nails with keen curiosity as to which distant direction the quartet will traverse with their 11th album. Their musical identity has remained virtually unchanged during their 20+ year reign for these sludge overlords and the music that comprises Crowbar’s new album, “The Serpent Only Lies” is about as predictable as rain being wet.
And just like rain is indeed wet, “The Serpent Only Lies” is indeed as heavy as lead. The album commences with Crowbar’s typically miserable sounding riffs on ‘Falling While Rising’ and the band drags their chords and distortion throughout the entire 45 minute dirge, without properly stopping. Those that have come to frown and bob their head at music that is heavy enough to have is own gravitational pull should feel extremely comfortable here as Kirk Windstein and Matthew Brunson unload a ton of infectious riffs in songs like the groaning ‘Plasmic and Pure’. Crowbar’s faster elements are also still as forceful as the slower, sludgier elements; ‘The Enemy Beside You’ cements itself as one of the most belligerent tracks on the album where the changes in tempo from lethargy to rage will keep you hooked.
Kirk is the driving force behind Crowbar. Aside from his coiling riffs that are meaty enough to piss off a vegan, it doesn’t matter whether you think that his laboured vocal approach possibly sounds like he’s taking an excruciating poo or not- Crowbar would not be the same without them. His drawn out gurgles match his band member’s tones with compelling catchiness in doomy tracks like ‘I Am The Storm’ and ‘On Holy Ground’ while his lyrics remain as blunt as a sledgehammer; the first lines of ‘The Enemy Beside You’ are Kirk bellowing: “if you grow a set of balls it might just change your life”.
As rigid as Crowbar’s music may be, there are moments where the band exemplifies the importance of change. ‘Song of the Dunes’ is a surprising take as it features a bleak, lamenting ambience that brings to mind desolate landscapes, as the namesake would suggest. Kirk also tests out his clean vocals at certain points, even if ‘clean’ means they remain as gruff as a bear with a sore throat. The title track and ‘Embrace the Light’ both feature this fresh attribute. The latter makes for a moment of exhaustion and unfortunate dejection amongst the meandering strike of rapid riffs while the latter appears more lonesome and brings additional weight to the hefty bass and Motorhead-esque drumming.
“The Serpent Only Lies” is a natural successor to “Symmetry In Black” and hearkens back to old Crowbar but recorded with a more pronounced production. It’s got everything you would expect from the band, but consequently, that comes at a price. What you’ll receive is a metric ***-ton of riffs over a digestible album, plus permanent frown for good measure. However, in terms of progression, the sheer heaviness of Crowbar’s music has effectively rendered them unmovable.