Coming up on nearly three decades of creating music, the New Orleans based sludge gods Crowbar have created a work heavy and mucky.
When it comes to listening to sludge we all know what to expect: the distortion, the shifting tempos, the grime and drag that comes with the groove. With Crowbar being part of the great foundation that makes sludge metal, The Serpent Only Lies encompasses so much of the sound we love of sludge, while finding itself in a place where it is at once heavy, but has room for opportunity.
Mastermind Kirk Windstein states that while writing The Serpent Only Lies he went back and purposely listen to old Crowbar albums such as the self-titled and Broken Glass in hopes to capture the mindset of the band back then. While this was Kirk’s goal, this record has actually a lot more in common with Symmetry in Black rather than the former two. While the older records capture so much of the that dirty distortion and notes that drip like molasses, not too many songs on this record dive to heavily into that effect. There is a strong emphasis on thick guitar work and groove, among other aspects that come with the genre.
Opening tracks “Falling While Rising” and “Plasmic And Pure” follow a very similar structure, and by the time you get to “Plasmic And Pure”, it already leaves a little bit to be desired. It is only when towards the end of the later that tempo shifts and Kirk does a little bit of singing that some flavor is added. Coming right in like a kick to the face, “I Am The Storm” is a fast heavy hitter, thundering and clashing with the band in full force. With a few seconds in the middle (calm before the storm if you will), it comes right back in and makes for one of the funnest tracks, and the heaviest, on the record. Moments like that are part of what adds to enjoying the album, which is unfortunate that there aren’t too many on them.
It is after that where a lot of the record maintains the same energy throughout. Songs like “Surviving The Abyss” and “Embrace The Light” are just a couple examples that follow the structure like the two opening tracks. While tempos shift and great drumming is found throughout the album, it almost feels as if the intensity is always just hovering over the same volume. Crowbar finds themselves in a comfort place that is well maintained and proves to be heavy, but leaves much room for desire. It is with a welcoming breath of fresh air when we get tracks like “Song Of The Dunes” or “On Holy Ground”; the former introducing a new kind of slow and powerful emotion, and the later being a pissed off beast with incredible drumming and hellish deep guitar work. Oddly, one of the best parts to this album is Kirk’s vocals and lyrics. The straight forward honesty in the lyrics comes off quite poetic, and vocally adds strongly to the groove of the instrumentals.
The Serpent Only Lies doesn’t reinvent anything within the genre, and leans more towards recent Crowbar, than to way back in the day Crowbar, missing out on that really grimy distortion and thickness. When it comes to a sub-genre strongly influenced by its structure though you can’t complain too much. Some who will listen to this album will probably wish there was a little variety to the record, with more songs like “I Am The Storm” and “Song Of The Dunes”. Crowbar enthusiasts, however, will eat this up as a heavy, groove strong, thick instrumental album with some damn strong vocals and lyrics.