Crowbar: Symmetry in Black review

When it comes to the sacred art of sludge metal, there is no denying that New Orleans based pioneers Crowbar not only invented the genre that they rule over with an iron fist, but have most certainly perfected it and after 25 years of existence and 10 studio albums, their overwhelming influence can still be heard and felt in every doom band that has come up in their epic wake.

From day one the band’s mastermind Kirk Windstein has set out to do something completely different from what everyone else was doing at the time. So when everyone else was trying to play as fast as humanly possible, Windstein said “Fuck It” and tuned the guitars as low as they could go and played as slow and doom laden as he possibly could.

In keeping with that time honored tradition, the sultans of sludge are set to unveil their newest atrocity for eOne Music called Symmetry In Black. The new album is an instant classic that is a steadfast and uncompromising testament to the band’s singular musical vision and a bold statement of their unerring dedication. In fact Windstein recently stepped aside from his role in Down to give the band he gave birth to the undivided attention it so richly deserves.

That renewed sense of passion can be instantly felt on opener “Walk With Knowledge Wisely,” a blackened offering that packs one hell of a punch and is easy to see why it was chosen to lead the charge, Windstein’s vocals more abrasive than a sponge bath with sandpaper and steel wool.  At the same time, “Symmetry In White” is a sprawling doom epic that creates an impenetrable wall of sound from which there is no escape and is wrought with dissonant aggression.

“The Taste Of Dying” is an unrelenting beast that showcases Windstein’s obsession with the powerchord and “Reflection Of Deceit” is an emotional gutpunch that descends into darkness. Both serve as a stout reminder of how the band revolutionized what it meant to be heavy. At the same time, the razorblade riffs and layers of thick grooves in “Ageless Decay” set the standard to their ruthless approach of unapologetic sludge.

From there the album takes an unexpected left turn into the psuedo acoustic musical interlude “Amaranthine,” that is heartfelt and heartwrenching at the same time and a stark contrast to the rest of the album. It is dedicated to Windstein’s wife Robin and “The Foreboding” is a lumbering, bass driven behemoth that sounds like Alice In Chains on a qualude induced bender.

“Shaman Of Belief” is a sweltering masterpiece that encompasses every facet of the Crowbar sound into a glorious cacophony of anger. While “Teach The Blind To See” and “A Wealth Of Empathy” are gravel throated eulogies that combine a complex rhythmic battery of angular grooves and emotionally charged lyrics to create an irresistibly deranged soundscape.

To show they’re not a one trick pony and that they can throwdown with the best of them “Symbolic Suicide” is an intense, full throttle, high octane, balls out rocker with an epic breakdown inspired by the late Peter Steele. On closer “The Piety Of Self-Loathing,” Kirk’s vocals take a backseat so the music can speak for itself. It is an evocative instrumental manifestation that rivals “Call Of Ktulu” or “Orion” by Metallica that closes the album in epic fashion.

Here’s the bottom line. It’s a fucking Crowbar album and therefore every self respecting metalhead must own it.

Rating: 9/10

-Eric Hunker