While we may not be seeing a fog filled stage for a while yet, or feeling the sticky pull of floors drenched in all kinds of questionable liquids, or colossal venues packed to over-capacity, Crowbar’s (7) latest performance at least kicks it back to the days of gigging in gloomy pubs for a pint and a packet of pork scratchings. The scene of the sludge metal jesters’ third livestream performance takes place on a small stage set-up with a neon red sign spelling out the bands’ name, giving the stuffy, warm, and homely feel of your local watering hole.
Skipping out on the formalities, frontman Kirk Windstein introduces the third instalment of successful shows, and opens with ‘Self-Inflicted.’ Song titles appear across a blackened screen for old fans who may need reminding, and acts as a mercy for new fans to keep up. Heavily tattooed and brawny musicians with deep Lemmy Kilmister vocals and sludge guitars, set up against seedy tavern-like decor act as the scene of a motorcycle club, the visuals and sound seeping with Herculean masculinity. High placed camera angles utilise what space there is in the compact performance room, the visuals flickering between black and white and technicolour to hold your attention so as not to become stagnant whilst we make-do with having to experience a live show through a screen sat on our living room sofas.
‘High Rate Extinction’ parades onto the scene, the closely-packed four walls acting as an amplifier for the foursome’s gargantuan sound increased by the groups progressing head-bobbing and attitude. Windstein quite literally wears his influences on his sleeves, the Type-O Negative tattoo making itself known and always in sight as his fretting hand takes to adventure on the neck of his Explorer guitar. Drummer Tommy Buckley sports a Led Zeppelin stylised shirt with Jon Bonham’s logo emblazoned, and bassist Todd Strange advertises fellow native New Orleans alternative rockers Green Gasoline across his torso, supporting local music and talent.
It can be hard to maintain an audiences attention through a screen, yet the lack of eye contact toward the cameras doesn’t deter the hold Windstein has around our throats as he whispers “crawl with me,’ creating an alluring and hypnotising absorption. ‘New Dawn’ instigates giving thanks in multiple languages, acknowledging the inclusivity of their multicultural fanbase, and adding a touch of personalisation to the performance. The apocalyptic flavour is dizzying as Buckley falls into his own drumming world, concentrating on the intricacies of his playing skills.
Despite lack of space that renders the band immobile for the majority of the performance, the instrumentals show more signs of life as each member settles into their groove, with a headbang here and a dirty face pulled there. ‘Conquering’s’ fast tempo beginnings slip into a slower vibe, the twin guitars mirroring the same riff creates a momentarily ethereal feeling.
Technical difficulties are never too far away with anything technology related, and Crowbar aren’t exempt from that rule. ‘New Dawn’ gets introduced twice across the screen, only to be corrected to ‘Waiting in Silence’ halfway through the track that was initially introduced as a “treat, the first song ever written off of the Obedience Thru Suffering record.” Utilising a feedback loop to introduce ‘The Lasting Dose,’ it’s the slowest in tempo within the set and is almost ballad-like by thrash metal standards, pulling the pendulum in the opposite direction for a brief, fleeting moment. Emotional heartstrings are pulled when the fourth wall is broken, introducing ‘New Man Born’ with the speech: “This is something we’ve only done twice ever, and never with Chaino here. This one’s dedicated to my wife, who can’t be here because she’s at work.” Lyrics about karma and learning from past mistakes birth the better man today, a love song in its own right; “Been crushed, been fucked, new man born from all of this. Saw it coming for a long time.”
Belting through ‘To Carry the Load’ and ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely,’ “Tommy gimme your best Motörhead beat” catapults the band into ‘Cemetery Angels,’ the thrash and doom infested breakdown discernible deep in the bowels of your gut. As ‘Thru the Ashes (I’ve Watched You Burn)’ and ‘Planets Collide’ pass by like meteors destined for destruction, the show ends on ‘All I Had (I Gave.)’ “This one’s an old classic. We can’t wait to see y’all in person, but right now this is all we can do and we’re happy to be doing this.” Don’t let the stereotypical image of scarily tattooed and broody metalheads fool you, the humility in Crowbar is infectious and admirable, giving the public and fans a much needed dose of beneficial escapism.