CROWBAR REVISITED: Equilibrium (Spitfire, 2000)

Equilibrium might actually be the Crowbar record I revisit most often. Not that I can recall all of these tunes offhand, but I just love their crazy cover of Gary Wright’s 70’s soft-rocker “Dream Weaver” that closes this one out. They take a tune that’s super cheesy and make it all slow, heavy and depressing. I guess that sorta sums up what I like about the band in the first place…

“I Feel the Burning Sun” kicks ‘er off with some chunky, chuggy, sludgy riffage, this new-millennium issuing sounding fuller and more bass-heavy than their earlier recordings. The title track follows, another slice of bottom-heavy groove metal that still slows things down to a trademark doomy crawl with Windstein wailing overhead and some great breakdowns at the end. “Glass Full of Liquid Pain” leans more towards true doom with its winding, lugubrious riffage, while “Command of Myself” makes heavy use of the wah pedal for a downtrodden, slow-mo stomp.

“Down into the Rotting Earth” carries on in a similar style, with Kirk punctuating some pounding percussion with his mournful cries. “To Touch the Hand of God” actually begins with piano, adding an air of melancholy to the proceedings. In fact, it’s pretty much a piano ballad, yet it doesn’t sound out of place with the rest of the sombre tunes on the album. “Uncovering” brings back the sludge in a big way, with some aggressive chugs that stop on a dime, leading to a breakdown that wouldn’t be outta place on either Down IV EP.

“Buried Once Again” is another downtuned stomper, maybe a little bit of Down in here, too. “Things You Can’t Understand” is a pretty decent mid-paced basher with a refrain about mind-fucking, while “Euphoria Minus One” has some solid slow parts and vicious breakdowns. But really, man, it’s all about “Dream Weaver.”

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2014 CFL POWER RANKINGS: Week 12

Well, we finally got our East-West upset, although it really wasn’t much of one.  With Darian Durant out for the season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders looked to be offensively inept as backup Tino Sunseri only completed 9 of 21 passes in a 28-3 loss to Hamilton–Hamilton!–last week.  But the biggest game was the near-upset that wasn’t, as the Calgary Stampeders erased a 29-10 halftime deficit to beat the Boatmen, 40-33.  And unlike the Riders, the Stamps didn’t miss a beat when their backup went in.  All Drew Tate did was go 6-for-6 with 74 yards and two scores, although it remains to be seen how much time Bo Levi Mitchell might miss–and how much he’ll be missed, for that matter.

Preseason Predictions

Last Week’s Rankings

Rankings Archive

1. Calgary Stampeders (10-1) Last Week: 1.  For 30 minutes of football, it looked like the Stamps would be slipping in the rankings, but an impressive second-half outburst, in which they outscored Toronto 30-4, led to one of the most impressive CFL comebacks in recent memory.  Bo Levi’s injury might be a bit of a concern, but hey, who can complain about the way Drew Tate played last Saturday!?

2. Edmonton Eskimos (8-3) Last Week: 3.  Although there wasn’t anything incredibly impressive about the Esks’ win over Montreal–their own fourth-quarter outburst aside–with a few teams around them in the rankings slipping, Edmonton moves back into second place.

3. B.C. Lions (7-4) Last Week: 5.  With Winnipeg and Saskatchewan on the decline, the Lions move up to third place.  To their credit, they did beat the Bombers pretty bad last week.

4. Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-3) Last Week: 2.  There were really no positives to take home from the Riders’ loss to Hamilton, but hey, at least they’re 3-0 over Winnipeg…

5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-7) Last Week: 7.  I dunno guy, but I think even Hamilton could beat the Bombers right now.

6. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6-6) Last Week: 4.  After three straight losses, it almost feels like the Bombers are back in the Least Division.  But while their 6-6 record would put them ahead out East, right now they appear to be in danger of missing the playoffs.

7. Toronto Argonauts (3-8) Last Week: 8.  Hey man, if football games were only 30 minutes long, the Argos would be first in the East right now.  I’ll give ‘em one spot up for effort, but they’ll need to play a full 60 minutes next time.

8. Montreal Alouettes (3-8) Last Week: 6.  In the CFL Least Division, the difference between sixth and eighth in the power rankings is all about how badly you lost last week.

9. Ottawa REDBLACKS!!!!! (1-9) Last Week: 9.  The REDBLACKS!!!! didn’t even need to play last week; they’re still the worst team in the league.

CROWBAR REVISITED: Odd Fellows Rest (Mayhem Records, 1998)

Perhaps the most elusive piece of Crowbar’s discography, Odd Fellows Rest came out on Mayhem Records, a short-lived 90’s hard rock/metal imprint (most notable releases include Dio, Saxon, and Cradle of Filth’s Cruelty and the Beast) that was already on its last legs by then. It’s been reissued a couple times since, but never in large quantities. Which is a shame, cuz this was a pretty great record in its own right.

A slow, sombre intro begets “Planets Collide,” the tune that was, notably, what the band was playing that time Kirk kicked a kid in the head. Not that this is music to stage-dive to—it’s practically a power ballad. “And Suffer as One” is a slow stomper, with plenty of the band’s trademark breakdowns packed in between some sombre notes. “1,000 Year Internal War” displays some more downtuned chugging, the band laying it on thicker and sludgier than on past releases. By the time we hit the slow ‘n heavy riffage of “To Carry the Load” it becomes apparent there will be no d-beats on this record.

“December’s Spawn” has a lighter, yet still doomy touch slightly reminiscent of Indy doomsters Apostle of Solitude (who weren’t even close to being a band back then, mind you). “It’s all in the Gravity” is one of the best slow-mo headbanging numbers here, with a chorus that echoes and repeats overtop a serpentine path towards sorrow. Likewise, doom ‘n gloom abounds on “Behind the Black Horizon,” a six-minute summoning of chilling melodies and plodding percussion. Nothing wrong with that, at all.

“New Man Born” is a bit more of a mid-paced punisher, pushing the tempo just a tad more, but still far from hardcore paces. And while it doesn’t necessarily need to be pointed out, this song does contain a perfectly adequate amount of cowbell. Great fist-pounding chorus, too… “Punishing me!” On that note, “Scattered Pieces Lay” actually has some pretty fast parts, though they culminate in sludgy, slow breakdowns; y’know, Crowbar style. It definitely takes a turn for the melodic midway through, sounding a little more like something Neurosis mighta done.

The title track starts off slow and mellow, sounding more like OM (less heavy on the bass though) or even modern-day Earth. That said, this one is more of a ballad, never picking up the pace or upping the heavy. But “On Frozen Ground” goes back on the groove-metal attack, with shades of Pantera painted in before dropping the tempo to oozing doom halfway through. And that’s all she wrote, although some reissues tacked on a rather interesting cover of Iron Maiden’s “Remember Tomorrow.” Let’s just say there’s no galloping basslines on this version…

CROWBAR REVISITED: Broken Glass (Pavement, 1996)

Sandwiched in between their earlier, formative albums and some of their outstanding early 2000’s releases, I must say that I don’t go back to Broken Glass very often. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this record—hey, it certainly still sounds like Crowbar—but when eyeing the track listing, nothing really jumps out and grabs me.

“Conquering” kicks this one off with some upbeat hardcore grumbling atop an aggressive beat that reminds me of the Cro-Mags. Of course, this one is not without its groove-laden breakdowns, especially on the chorus. “Like Broken Glass,” the de facto title track, rumbles along a slightly slower route, with a devastatingly doomy chorus. “(Can’t) Turn Away from Dying” slows things down even further, for a sparse, semi-whispered verse that builds up to another chugging, doomtastic refrain. The slow-mo headbanging is strong with this one!

“Wrath of Time be Judgement” takes a grinding, winding approach with more shades of Noo Yawk Hahd Koa, before it’s back to the super-slow-mo with “Nothing” being one of the more plodding tracks in the band’s back catalogue—which isn’t a bad thing, in this case. But “Burn the World” brings us back to a more upbeat approach, the band pushing the tempos, if not varying them, more often on this album.

“I Am Forever” continues down the same winding, sludgy road as “Nothing,” although I’d say this one has slightly better breakdowns. “Above, Below and Inbetween” chugs along at a similar pace, slowing down for a pretty decent, if less-than-memorable refrain. “(You Know) I’ll Live Again” falls on the slightly faster side; call it doomcore or sludgecore or whatever, albeit with a killer slow breakdown that comes down just shy of two minutes. “Reborn Thru Me” perhaps best exemplifies the modern sludge sound, coming off like a buncha bands from Georgia or something. (Harvey Milk, maybe?) Of course, none of those kids were making that kinda noise back in ’96. ;)

CROWBAR REVISITED: Time Heals Nothing (Pavement, 1995)

Although it might not contain quite as many anthems as its predecessor, Time Heals Nothing is certainly another solid release of slow, sorrowful sludge that’s certainly Crowbar’s signature. Even when you say NOLA sludge, there isn’t another band that sounds quite the same—at least not on the same level. But the most noticeable difference here is that there are quite a few more tempo changes than the first two records. The band comes closer to hardcore than ever before, but still packs it in beneath a whole lotta sludge.

“The Only Factor” kicks things off on a faster note, with some pounding hardcore beats beneath a guttural Windstein bark. Suffice to say, there are a few breakdowns packed in here as well, while Kirk bellows “Never again, never again, too hard!” and things slow down considerably when he belts out the song title past the two-minute mark. “No More Can We Crawl” delivers some more devastating downstrokes, all slow ‘n evil ‘n shit. Yuuup, it shure sounds like a Crowbar numbah!

The title track begins with tribal drumming, Kirk waxing melancholic over a low-key, distorted doom riff. Seriously bro, break out the Kleenex for this one; she’s a tear-jerker. “Leave It Behind” seems to contradict its predecessor’s message (the title track’s chorus is “Never can I forget you’re gone”), but it has the same sombre delivery, a crunchy, sludgy stomp that oozes heartache and pain—with just a coupla hardcore drumbeats thrown in for good measure. “Through a Wall of Tears” seems to suggest a common lyrical theme—surely enough, it’s sorrow. This track is another slow, meandering doomster, measuring in at just over six minutes.

“Lack of Tolerance” picks up the pace, a mid-tempo hardcore stomp with the repetitively catchy chorus “No tolerance! No tolerance!” But “Still I Reach” slows things back down with a signature winding Windstein riff backed by plenty of chugga-chugga, though it too reaches a frenetic punk-rock pace as it heads towards the finish. “Embracing Emptiness” begins with breakdowns, and keeps chugging along, Kirk’s voice sounding a little hoarser than usual, especially on the haunting final verse. Dude was seemingly in some serious pain when they laid this one down.

“A Perpetual Need” kicks off with an upbeat punk/ska beat, though the downtuned riffs suggest anything but. It does go from there into some pretty speedy territory, mind you, before those signature breakdowns bring us into the first verse—and then back into the fast-paced riffage for the wordless chorus. Powerful stuff. “Numb Sensitive” brings this to a close with a sparse verse structure that borders on Biohazard, ultimately introducing some chugging into the mix. Not exactly the most memorable sendoff to a pretty solid record, but hey, on the whole I can’t complain.

CROWBAR REVISITED: Self-titled (Pavement, 1993)

One of the utmost quintessential sludge albums, Crowbar’s sophomore effort features such classic tracks as “Self-Inflicted,” “All I Had (I Gave),” “I Have Failed,” and their cover of Led Zep’s “No Quarter,” on which Windstein’s southern drawl really makes its presence felt. “No quooota!”

“High Rate Extinction” kicks ‘er off with a rolling groove somewhat reminiscent of Pantera—perhaps the influence of producer Phil Anselmo. There’s even a bit of Down in the breakdowns. The grooves get a bit quicker on “All I Had,” leading up to the epic chug-a-lug breakdowns of the chorus, one of the catchiest you’ll hear in sludge. “Will That Never Dies” is one of the most lugubrious pieces of riffage on here, a tune that practically oozes depression, going from slow and painful to a rolling mid-paced groove not unlike EHG. When I think Crowbar, this is the kind of number that comes to mind.

“Fixation” is a similarly downtuned struggle, the kind of riff that looms and lurks around corners as Kirk spills his pain all over the page. If the breakdown around the 2:30 mark doesn’t have you windmill headbanging like Beavis and Butthead in super slow-mo, you probably don’t have a pulse. Suffice to say that Crowbar’s “No Quarter” sounds very little like the original, as they put their own downtuned, slowed-down take on it. Probably my second-favourite Crowbar cover tune…you’ll know what’s number one when I mention it.

“Self-Inflicted” speeds things up for a semi-thrasher chock-a-block with breakdowns on the simple, yet effective chorus. The hardcore kiddies could totally mosh to this, and when it slows to a crawl around 1:15, get ready to throwdown in the pit. “Negative Pollution” is equally downtrodden, another classic Crowbar cut that cuts about as deep as Windstein’s full-throated wails. And again, that breakdown at the two-minute mark will basically break your neck. That’s about as doomy and depressing as it gets, kids!

“Existence is Punishment” has a slow, bass-driven intro that drives us to some more trad-doom sadness, with Windstein’s mournful cries sounding no different in ’93 than they do today. Around 1:45, we pick things up into a brief hardcore stomp before shovelling on another layer of sludge-metal sickness, a pattern that repeats about a minute later. “Holding Nothing” continues the torment with a winding, moaning number that leaves one feeling none the merrier, before “I Have Failed” brings things to an epic conclusion. The tune is largely Saint Vitus worship, but you can’t help but yelp along the song title with Kirk, each and every time. Hey, I wouldn’t complain if they played this whole thing from start to finish next Friday!

CROWBAR REVISITED: Obedience Thru Suffering (Pavement, 1991)

Kirk Windstein and his band of not-so-merry men are coming to Canada for the first time in ages, and even though it’s been a cold September, something tells me they’ll all be wearing shorts.  In any case, they’ll be bringing their NOLA-style sludge to Toronto on the 19th…and to my eardrums starting now! ;)

Crowbar’s debut was pretty much the first NOLA sludge album, beating EHG’s similarly insufferable In the Name of… by oh, about a year or so. But much like their (slightly) more vitriolic brethren, Kirk Windstein and co didn’t quite have it all together on their debut—twas their self-titled sophomore effort that, along with Take as Needed for Pain, would really bring the subgenre to the forefront in ’93.

“Waiting in Silence” kicks this one off with some feedback ahead of a pounding drum beat that’s pure sludge metal. The bass is awfully loud in the mix beneath a soon-to-be-signature Windstein riff, as this thing sounds like, for all intents and purposes, it was recorded in a basement. (Hey, that’s how sludge is supposed to sound, right?) “I Despise,” while equally bass-heavy, is heavier as a whole, a slow, mournful stomper that captures the essence of Crowbar. “A Breed Apart” isn’t all that dissimilar from its predecessors, with more low-tuned, slowly-played stop-starts riffs lumbering long and loud for five-and-a-half minutes. Vocals are a little deeper though, sorta sounding like some 90’s death/doom. (Winter?)

The stop-start riffs continue on the title track, another gloomy piece of downtuned despondency. “Vacuum” is a bit more of a chugger, sucking up dirt and grime as it rolls along, while “4 Walls” is equally enclosing in its repetitive approach, before it picks up the pace to a mid-level thrash attack in its final minute. But “Subversion” turns it back on its head, another plodding, ringing plugger with at least a decent riff or two.

“Feeding Fear” also has a couple tasty licks in the stop-start style, while “My Agony” offers an agonizing 4:20 of similar fare. Not a whole lotta variation from one track to the next, as “The Innocent” closes things out with another knuckle-dragging slobber-knocker. Insufferable, indeed!