Zero and Below
4 March 2022
Words by Jimmy Glinster
No one quite does sludge like Louisiana’s very own genre pioneers Crowbar. And finally, after two years in completion, the bare-knuckle quintet is finally about to release Zero and Below. Having recently celebrated 30 years as the masters of their game, the band’s label and PR team have promised the album will deliver powerful, evocative, and crushingly heavy music.
Let’s see if it lives up to the hype!
Opening track, The Fear That Blinds You, rocks straight in with a more upbeat tempo than you’d usually find in the sludge genre. It quickly pulls back to a slower groove, though, which makes way for the raspy vocals of Kirk Windstein. Things chug along for a while and make me feel like I’m being skull dragged into a swamp. Heavy stuff!
Her Evil Is Sacred backs up with some more sludging groove as the tempo drops noticeably. Kirk’s vocals are so distraught that he sounds like he may have caught some of this sacred evil from whoever she is. It’s quite possible someone was burning at the stake, or about to be burned at the stake during the recording of this track because it’s damn nasty.
Next up is Confess To Nothing, which is possibly quite relevant to my description of the previous track. Thumping drawn-out tom fills carry the track’s verses while the bass and guitars rumble in and out underneath. The odd blues riff pokes its head out here and there to give the track a bit of life. Slow burner or just slow? I’ll let you be the judge.
Chemical Godz is the first single and video release from the album, and if you’ve seen the video, you probably get the idea. It’s a heavy track with plenty of sludge groove and some dark lyrics delivered in a rasping howl. Check out the video below!
Denial of The Truth, confess to nothing, seems like a bit of an underlying theme here. Reflection of the Trump era, maybe? Wait, what’s this, clean vocals? Clean, harmonised vocals over thumping toms and a rolling, dark bass line. Whatever this is, it works, and when the heavy guitars finally join in it becomes a massive, drawn-out tune of doom. And just when I was about to tune out, the riff kicks in, and the song takes a more upbeat feel for its last minute.
A rocking fuzzed out bassline introduces Bleeding From Every Hole and the band quickly joins in to rock away on the most upbeat adventure so far. A chugged-out broken groove kicks in for the song’s chorus and the bass quickly throws you back into the rock with a quick bass interlude. Rinse, repeat, half-time it and the song gets its message across as intended.
It’s Always Worth The Gain, and there is no lack of gain on the guitars and bass on this record. The guitars take a more melodic approach in this track, full gain and all. The dualling guitars at times remind me of a more traditional sound, but the detuning and slow bends keep its feet firmly planted in the sludge. For a minute there I thought the track had ended, but then some weird thrash crossover thing happened. Yeah, that was cool n’ shit!
I didn’t think this record could get any sludgier until Crush Negativity literally crushed my negativity. The song is broodingly dark and doomy, so much so that I think it’s affecting my resonating frequency. As I start thinking I‘m going need to get really high to make it through this one, the band very suddenly picks up pace to another strange moment of thrash crossover. It’s quite fucking enjoyable now!
A grooving blues lick opens proceedings for Reanimating A Lie, and the toms quickly jump in to build up for the rest of the band to join in on the riff. The choruses pull back in pace a fair bit to become quite drawn out and droning. After another verse and chorus, the track picks up pace with a rocking bridge and some kind of weird sludge-down. Whatever it is, it fucking works!
I’m not sure how, but I’ve made it to the final and title track Zero And Below alive and well.
A traditional style, thumping, chugged-out metal intro brings the track in, but it quickly pulls back into a slow-burning drone of despair. Melodic guitars resurface again as the track builds atmosphere around itself. Dead set slow burner, real slow, complete with acoustic interlude and dual guitar melodies to boot. An adventure in song writing maturity, maybe?
Well, that was quite the ride, and I’d have to say that is the first time an album has ever scared me. It’s dark, and it’s brooding, evil even. But, it grooves, it grooves its way through the sludge to deliver a rocking good (?) time.
It might damage your soul a little, but give it a crack anyway!