Crowbar

Sever the Wicked Hand

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Given Kirk Windstein's busy schedule as a member of the highly successful Down and persistent reports about his struggles with alcohol abuse, the prospects of his original band, Crowbar, ever releasing another album looked relatively grim during the second half of the 2000s. But after finding a new record label (eOne Entertainment) and new management (with friend and Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta), and cleaning up his act, a sober Windstein was actually ready to attempt a comeback by the time 2010 rolled around. And before you knew it, Crowbar's ninth studio album, Sever the Wicked Hand, was arriving in stores on February 8, 2011 -- precisely six years to the day since the group's dispirited eighth effort, Lifesblood for the Downtrodden -- and one can earnestly say the wait was worth it. Not that anything has changed cosmetically speaking about Windstein's patented NOLA-style sludge; no great revelations or revolutions are in store here, but his spirit and inspiration have clearly been revitalized, and the end results amount to a quintessential Crowbar album. Whether showing unexpected bursts of speed (the title track, "The Cemetery Angels," etc.), slowing things down to a near standstill ("Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth," "Symbiosis"), or marching to massive grooves somewhere in between ("Isolation [Desperation]," "As I Become One," etc.), Windstein's riffs are consistently twisted into gloriously misshapen form, just like in the days of old. They're also at their titanic, messianic best when interlaced with woeful melodies that give his tormented howls the poignancy needed to sustain his pleas for absolution on the stunning "Let Me Mourn" and "Echo an Eternity." All of which brings Crowbar and their rehabilitated leader back full circle, in a sense, to the place they started from -- philosophically speaking -- all of 20 years prior, with Sever the Wicked Hand one of the strongest efforts of their career.

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