I’ve never seen an epidemiological study linking alcoholism to different professions, but if there was one I would imagine ‘doom metal singer’ would take out the #1 spot by a mile. All the nihilistic angst, tortured screams and existential themes suggest the need for some serious self medication.
It turns out this was true of Crowbar’s Kirk Windstein, who has faced his demons in the time since their last album, 2005’s Lifesblood for the Downtrodden. This interview has Kirk talking about some of the shit he’s been through in the intervening years, and the headspace he was in when he made this new record:
As he says in the interview, this is a positive record. You might find it hard to believe that a band who have written songs such as Existence is Punishment, I Have Failed and Through a Wall of Tears, and whose guitar sounds like it has bubbled up from the depths of the earth through a mile thick swamp of molasses would be capable of making a positive record, but it’s true.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still a heavy album, and that signature guitar sound is still here, saturating every available frequency and overwhelming every eardrum it touches. There are a few more up tempo songs than previous records, and the influence of the work he’s done with Down in recent years shines through, with just a little bit more groove than usual.
But it’s the lyrics where you’ll really notice the difference. Check some of these out:
- “Never let it bring you down, stay strong ‘til the bitter end”;
- “This darkness fades away, the light begins to stay”;
- “Hands of death letting me go, I’m reinventing the man that you all thought was gone”;
- “I’m gonna pull through!”
OK, it’s not quite Walking on Sunshine, but it speaks of a new maturity, and a willingness to throw off the veil of self loathing that has shrouded Crowbar’s previous work.
When I first got my hands on this CD and saw that the first song was called Isolation, I was worried we might be in for a bit of Mighty Boosh style introspection:
But thirty seconds into the album comes the first of many killer riffs strewn throughout this album like gold pieces and gems across the floor of a dragon’s lair.
Big statement time: Kirk Windstein is the best exponent of the heavy metal riff since Tony Iommi.
He has a way of coming up with a killer riff, stretching it out for an extra bar or two, adding a little flourish, then turning it back on itself somehow so that it becomes this monstrous, twisted thing. It’s not just the riffs themselves that make this a great album, but the way he weaves them together seamlessly, and the ability to match the metre of the lyrics with the riffs so that they complement each other perfectly.
There is no filler on this album – not a single wasted song. And the production, handled by Kirk himself, is faultless – as clean and heavy as Terry Date’s work with Crowbar’s old mates Pantera, which became synonymous with southern US metal.
So for all of these reasons – riffs, songwriting, consistency and sound – I’m doing something I don’t do very often and giving this a big fat ’10’.
But there’s something more than that here too. This album has shown me that ‘being metal’ isn’t about how much you hate yourself and the world, how much booze you drink, how many drugs you take, how tough you are or how long your hair is. Metal is about the music, and life is too short to waste on all that macho bullshit.
PS. Here’s a song from the album – enjoy!