Crowbar – ‘Zero and Below’ Album Review

You can’t judge a book by the cover, except when you can. Look at these guys:

Photo Credit: Zack Smith

You KNOW what these guys sound like before you hear a note. If you’ve spent any time in New Orleans, and I do not mean Mardi Gras Bourbon Street, you know that it is a hot, damp, slow-moving place. New Orleans has the good manners that are endemic in a place where aggression is just under the surface, all the time, everywhere. From this environment, a certain type of heavy, lurching rock has flourished for nearly 4 decades and no one embodies that fleur de lis bulldozer sound than Crowbar.

Crowbar formed in the Big Easy in 1990 and from the beginning their sound has been informed by the intensity of late-period hardcore and the slow dirge march of doom rock. From Pantera to Hatebreed, Crowbar has had a massive influence on American heavy music. Through 30 years and a changing line-up, the band has remained true to the blueprint drawn all those years ago. Crowbar dropped its 12th and latest album on March 4th of this year, called Zero And Below and it does not disappoint.

If I had to describe the general sound of this album in terms of the big 5 compound exercises, though I doubt anyone would ask me to, I would have to say that this is music to squat to. This is not bench press music, with the small comfort of the pad’s cushioning under your back. And it definitely is not pull-up stuff, which I think would require a more whimsical sound. This isn’t even deadlifting soundtrack material as there is an uplifting, victorious sense to the movement that just isn’t Crowbar-ish. Crowbar music in general and Zero And Below, in particular, captures the misery and the intensity of a heavy squat session.

Zero And Below is relentless. The opener “Denial of Truth” opens with the doomiest of doom riffs. The sheer weight of the guitar-age is offset by singer Kirk Windstein’s surprisingly melodic voice in pretty mode. The next track, the very metal-y named “Bleeding From Every Hole” switches up the script. Instead of a slow, southern chug, we get straight-up old-school NYHC speed. On this joint Crowbar sounds more like Sheer Terror and they trade in doom riffs for floor-punch breakdowns. The album closer, the eponymously titled “Zero And Below” gets back to basics, the sound a mixture of Black Sabbath and Mercyful Fate.

Crowbar hail from an intense and sweaty part of the world and they produce intense and sweaty music, reliably and superbly. Should you find yourself in the rack with a brave number of plates on the bar, I can heartily recommend Zero And Below. It will provide you with the grim power necessary to get down and go all the way back up.

Written by: Padraig Mara

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