Review Summary: Crowbar's most underrated. A very mature take on sludge metal.
Crowbar are underrated enough as they are, but Equilibrium is undoubtedly the most underrated album of their entire discography. I seriously fail to understand why this album didn't catch on like some of their earlier classics, or the later Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form. Perhaps Equilibrium features a few more filler songs that some of those aforementioned albums, but those filler tracks still pack a punch, and the key songs are among the pinnacle of Crowbar's entire career.
Equilibrium is pretty much more of the same from Crowbar, but when you're a band like Crowbar, that's certainly not a bad thing. If you expect monolithic riffage that can crush skulls combined with profoundly relatable lyricism that can crush hearts, Equilibrium delivers exactly what a Crowbar fan should be asking for. "I Feel The Burning Sun" is certainly one of the best sludge metal songs the genre ever put out, and features all of the trademark Crowbar badassery. Endless riffs heavier than a tyrannosaurus rex, earworms for both verses and choruses, and at least one moment that makes your headbang so hard you might have to go see a chiropractor afterward. Any 'Crowbar Essentials' playlist that doesn't include "I Feel The Burning Sun" or the title track are not worth the time. "Glassful Of Liquid Pain" is my personal choice for Crowbar's singlemost underrated song ever, featuring a verse melody progression so genius and so catchy that it makes you wonder how nobody else has ever come up with it before then. Speaking of progression, the song features 6/4 and 12/4 time signatures, a charming rarity in an otherwise straightforward band like Crowbar. In fact, Equilibrium features tons of rare progressive streaks within its runtime, including tracks like "Euphoria Minus One", "Uncovering", and the title track, all of which are excellent tracks. I wouldn't necessarily call Equilibrium a "progressive metal" album, but considering the amount of time signatures, clean interludes, and styles of vocal experimentation present here, it's probably enough to keep the attention of any curious prog fans.
Ending the album is a nearly nine-minute sludge metal anthem, a loose cover of Gary Wright's "Dreamweaver" that features enough unique and original pieces of composition to where it could practically be considered its own song. Choosing to cover an 80's synth-pop Gary Wright song over the more obvious doom metal influences like, say, Saint Vitus or Black Sabbath, and then making it one of the best things Crowbar ever, makes it one of the most surprisingly awesome covers in metal history. It almost makes you wish there were more sludgified covers of 80's pop songs out there.
The album's production is a bit more gritty than what some Crowbar fans could be used to, but it's nothing too distracting or out of the ordinary, nor does it lessen the mammoth-like riffage that ensues for this entire album. Well, not the entire album; Equilibrium does take a moment to breathe a bit with the dreary and tear-jerking piano ballad "To Touch The Hand Of God", where Kirk Windstein gets to flex his wonderful clean vocal capabilities. It's probably the most beautiful and depressing thing the band ever put out. The album features another brief moment of clean vocals towards the end of "Down Into The Rotten Earth", playing over one hell of a doomy riff in another one of Crowbar's most chilling moments. Kirk has a wonderful melodic voice and the moments where he gets to show it off are among the best on the entire album. Perhaps my favorite moment happens to be the final track, a minute-long drunken bonus acapella of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", filled with out-of-key wails, over-machismo grunts, and tons of fun. This little moment reminds us that even a band as testosterone-filled as Crowbar can have a good time.
Equilibrium has often been listed as one of Crowbar's lesser releases, if not their absolute worst by some fans and critics, a label with reason that has long escaped me. While there are admittedly other Crowbar albums I would rank above Equilibrium, there's still so much to the album that makes it a sizable blip on the sludge metal radar. It continues the further deviation from hardcore on Odd Fellows Rest and bridges it into the more epic sound that would be found on their next album, Sonic Excess. For anyone longing for a heavy sludge metal album with tons of variety and riffs, I fail to see how Equilibrium could leave you unsatisfied.