The New Orleans sludge maestros CROWBAR are back with their eighth album, “Life’s Blood For The Downtrodden,” and they sound as oppressive as ever. The band continues their no-frills approach, bludgeoning the listener with thick, groovy Doom/Sludge riffs and salting the wound with rough, Hardcore-esque vocals. Despite its surprisingly optimistic lyrics, opener “New Dawn” is hauntingly bleak and on “Angel’s Wings” the band sounds simply rabid. It’s true, CROWBAR aren’t pretty.
The really great thing is that this album isn’t entirely wallowing in dreary Sludge – there are some downright tender moments. Before you give up hope, don’t worry – CROWBAR hasn’t donned thick-rimmed glasses and sweater vests and morphed into an Emo band. On tracks such as “Coming Down” and “Holding Something,” the riffs take on a more melodic quality, as do the vocals. There’s no clean singing per se, but the vocals are sung in a strained, gravely voice that conveys a pure sense of emotion – maybe even weakness. The biggest surprise was closer “Lifesblood,” which opens with simple acoustic strumming and piano. I kept expecting the inevitable thick riff to kick in at any moment, but instead I was greeted with the sound of crickets chirping and a slick guitar solo. This track is so much different from the other songs on the album, staying soft through the entire duration, but despite its mellow character it manages to remain the oppressiveness that has become synonymous with the name CROWBAR. “Lifesblood” is a real standout, a bit of successful experimentation amidst a rather straightforward trip through the tar pit.
The press sheet makes reference to the common comparison of CROWBAR’s sound to a mix between PANTERA and THE MELVINS and really, that’s not too far off. Fans of either band will find something to like in “Life’s Blood For The Downtrodden.” It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, as there is a distinct lack of complex structures, virtuoso guitar shredding and keyboards, but give it a chance nonetheless. (Online July 22, 2005)