The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Sever the Wicked Hand Mark Eglinton , March 7th, 2011 07:58

Despite a revolving-door of former band members, the heart and soul of New Orleans sludge pioneers Crowbar has – and always will be – Kirk Windstein. Granted, Windstein also appears in other bands: DOWN and Kingdom Of Sorrow being two of the best known; but as a founder member of Crowbar dating back to sometime in 1988, Windstein has been solely responsible for the cult status that this band now enjoys – and for good reason.

Fusing his own anguished vocals with creeping, slab-heavy riffs, Crowbar are the living epitome of pretty well every sludge act that has followed them and throughout their twenty plus year development, Crowbar's sound has undergone much more subtle change and shift than you'd expect given the deeply oppressive confines of what it is that they do. In addition to an active musical career though, Windstein has lived life very hard, prompting a recent departure into rehab and it is this timely acceptance of a need for help that makes Sever The Wicked Hand the most significant tipping-point to date in the band's impressive back catalogue.

Here's the thing: Crowbar's entire lyrical ethos up to this point has been all about struggle, pain and overcoming and maybe some more pain, and the accompanying noise has always mirrored those claustrophobic themes, as if to perpetuate the misery. Suddenly, a physically reformed Windstein seems able to view life through a new pair of eyes and that liberation is tattooed on every bar of this record, beginning with 'Isolation (Desperation)' and Windstein's roars of "You're never coming back, never coming back." Better still is 'As I Become One' – a full-bore maelstrom of down-tuned riffs, perfectly offset by the most sublime of mid-song instrumental breakdowns. 'A Farwell To Misery' continues the instrumental theme achingly well and only serves to illustrate the huge freedom and scope that Crowbar now have at their disposal.

The real revelation here though is that while nothing of Crowbar's blunt-force efficacy is sacrificed as a result of Windstein's lifestyle self-assessment, there is significantly more contrast within the sound – a feature which now gives the undoubted thud of Crowbar that much more impact, while on a lyrical level he has actually achieved what he has been singing about for the last twenty odd years: overcoming. He has overcome, and in doing so has delivered the most accomplished Crowbar record thus far.