CD Review: “The Serpent Only Lies” by Crowbar

The Masters of Sludge get back to the basics on their 11th record, The Serpent Only Lies. The return of Todd Strange may play a role in this as Crowbar aim for heaviness over experimentation on this album. This is not to say that 2011’s Sever The Wicked Hand and 2014’s Symmetry in Black were not heavy. However, Crowbar included lush, ambient tracks that worked to diversify the mood on both records. On Serpent, the boys mean business and prove this out the gate with “Falling While Rising.” The stomping riff lumbers like a giant down a mountain before taking off in to a galloping beat.

This is the band at its finest and is sure to become a fan favorite. Crowbar also return to its hardcore punk roots with “I Am The Storm” with its dysmorphic d-beat and Kirk’s lyrics of self-empowerment and unconquered strength. It gets the job done in less than 3 minutes and shows Crowbar’s superb ability to blend hardcore and metal. “Surviving The Abyss” has a dreamy, melancholic riff that paint a bleak picture of walking in the darkness. This track is in the same vein as “Planets Collide” on the band’s 1998 release Odd Fellows Rest. Thus, it serves as another example of the band rediscovering its old sound. The title track is another highlight with its punkish riffing but monastic chorus. The molten, dissonant riffing of Kirk Windstein and Matt Brunson is in full form here.

This record is more focused than Crowbar’s past couple of releases. This record features only 10 songs and clocks in at 45 minutes. Serpent is not generic by any means, and the band does not play it safe. However, there are fewer avant-garde songs on this album than on the band’s past few records. Serpent shows Crowbar playing the somber, sludgy, doom metal that brought the band recognition in the first place. However, Kirk and company are not remaking Time Heals Nothing or Obedience Through Suffering. Serpent is a modern take on the quartet’s old school sound and it works. The production is stellar and the album is a great follow up to Symmetry in Black.

The Serpent Only Lies is another notch in the belt for Crowbar. Fans of the band will enjoy hearing Todd Strange pluck out his godly basslines in the band that he helped form. The record is not trite and there is still an experimental element that is refreshing. Crowbar has delivered once again and that is no lie.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s Facebook page.

CD Review: ‘Red Robes’ by The Order of Israfel

It is rare that a band can successfully meld several sub-genres without sounding awkward or insincere. Swedish doom metal quartet The Order of Israfel pull it off with ease on its sophomore effort Red Robes. The Romani influenced violins that open “Staff In The Sand” provide a haunting prelude for the melancholy riffs that follow. The downbeat, mountainous riffs plod like a giant in a winter storm. The title track has a touch of stoner metal with its psychedelic main riff. The ominous riffing is further accentuated by the chorused singing throughout the track. The chants and creepy bassline in the middle of the track would invoke the Devil himself. The grooving “In Thrall To The Sorceress” is one of the shorter tracks on the record. It is a straight up rocker that breaks up the bleak atmosphere of the previous songs. Yet, the highlight on Red Robes is “Swords To The Sky,” a progressive doomy venture equal parts Black Sabbath and Opeth. Tom Sutton’s wailing vocals paint a picture of a battle worn knight marching forward. The acoustic passage of “Fallen Children” is both and tragic and beautiful. The band focuses on war and the relationship between man and the supernatural.

Red Robes shows The Order of Israfel as its best. The band can play doom, folk and progressive metal without a hint of hesitation. This gives the music several layers of depth and it is never monotonous. The band’s influences are apparent but not cheaply imitated. Production wise, it is a mix of vintage Seventies with a modern update. The guitars and drums are at the forefront so one can feel those molten riffs melt your ear drums. The only minor problem is that Tom’s Sutton’s vocals are slightly drowned out, however, it is not terribly bad.

Red Robes is one of the best metal records released this year. It is only May and we have seven months to go, but this is a strong release. Fans of Paradise Lost, Candlemass or Electric Wizard should pick this record up. The Order of Israfel’s members have every right to point their swords to the sky with Red Robes.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s Facebook page