Kirk Windstein. The man. The legend. You may only know him for his epic beard, but believe it or not he is also a talented musician. Do you like sludge metal? You can thank Kirk for that; his band Crowbar is one of the pioneers of the style, and they have returned with one mother of a tenth album, called “Symmetry in Black.”
Last year Kirk left his other long-time band, Down, in order to focus his efforts on Crowbar. Many a metal fan lamented his departure from the all-star band (myself included) but we certainly cannot fault the man for following his passion. My post-Down melancholy was, however, rather short-lived once I got a taste of “Symmetry in Black.”
I was somewhat late to the sludge metal party, because some of the bands that play this style do so in a very sloppy and unappetizing manner. Based on a small sample group I turned my nose up at the style for years. That all changed once I heard bands like Eyehategod, Soilent Green and, yes, Crowbar.
“Symmetry in Black” makes me very happy. This collection of songs is heavy as…well, a really heavy thing (bonus points for the Strapping Young Lad reference.) Seriously, if you like your metal down-tuned and crushing, you cannot go wrong with “Symmetry in Black.” Kirk keeps a tidy workspace, though, because these songs have a very tight production which emphasizes the ultra-heavy while preventing all the moving parts from getting bogged down in excess noise.
One of the things that set Crowbar apart from other sludge bands is that they do not shy away from clean guitars or clean vocals. While there is certainly no shortage of thunderous riffage or gruff growling vocals, neither is this album a one-trick pony. Clean guitars provide welcome dynamic variety, and while Kirk doesn’t exactly sing entirely clean, his voice does take on a pleasing quality. Check out the track “Amaranthine” to hear what I am talking about.
I would be lying if I said I am not holding out hope for a Kirk-Down reunion at some future date, but something about this feels at least semi-permanent. Crowbar has for years been rather unfortunately set to the back-burner for Down, and I think the time has come for Crowbar to step up and remind us all that they are a force to be reckoned. Besides, there’s always Kingdom of Sorrow, still, right?
If you are one of those people that skip to the end to get the skinny on an album, here is your payoff. Crowbar is back, and “Symmetry in Black” is an absolutely devastating slab of metal perfection. I think 2014 is going to be a great year for metal, because I feel I have been saying this a lot lately: this will hands-down be one of the best albums of the year. I get so excited listening to “Symmetry” that it borders on ridiculous.
Check out the track “Reflection of Deceit.”