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Store for Music have been releasing some interesting triple disc sets lately, and here we have one of the best - three classic albums that represent one of the sludge metal subgenre's pioneering acts, Crowbar. Frontman Kirk Windstein and co. have been at it for 28 years now (albeit with various personnel changes), and this collection sees three of the their best works housed in a single set - namely 1998’s ’Odd Fellows Rest’, 2000’s ‘Equilibrium’ and the stupendously titled ‘Sonic Excess in Its Purest Form’ from 2001. Three albums over a three year period, of nothing but quality sludge. Crowbar were evidently on a (steam)roll during this time.

Drenched in filth-ridden sonics, Crowbar’s output across these three discs is predominantly chock full of heavy, chunky riffage, aural menace and a healthy dose of dissonance (the latter largely courtesy of Windstein’s vocal delivery). Although let’s not forget the engaging melodies that also colour Crowbar’s sonic canvas. Liner notes state that, during this period, “Windstein was beginning to write disarmingly heartfelt songs that didn’t rely on mere bludgeon to get their point across.” This is emphatic on the title track from ‘Odd Fellows Rest’, where heaviness and dissonance is entirely absent, in favour of the melodic and the mellow. Same for ‘To Touch the Hand of God’ on ‘Equilibrium’ and ‘In Times of Sorrow’ on ‘Sonic Excess in Its Purest Form’. It was always perhaps a logical progression that Crowbar’s songwriting would evolve in such a manner, and the evidence is here to be heard, for newcomers, old timers and those perhaps rediscovering this late-90s, early-2000s triple dose of sludge. And their doomy/sludgy cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Remember Tomorrow’ is inspired. And even more sludged-up is their take on Gary Wright’s ‘Dream Weaver’, which closes ‘Equilibrium’, and has been transformed way beyond the gentle sparkle of the 1975 original.

Talking of Crowbar’s evolution by the point of ‘Odd Fellows Rest’, there’s also a discernible mini-evolution across the three discs in this set. So, when reaching ‘Sonic Excess in Its Purest Form’, the band sound distinctly more polished (partly due to better production standards for this album, it could be argued) in both performance and songwriting skills. Windstein’s unmistakable growled delivery is still ever-present, but he introduced a lot more tonality in his vocals by this stage. It’s certainly the slickest of the three albums and compositionally the best, but without the band losing any of their gritty edge.

There are no obscurities or rarities to be found here; rather, it’s three of the best from one of the sludge scene’s best. Thus, established Crowbar fans will undoubtedly already own these albums in one format or another. In this sense, I’m guessing the cunningly named ‘Archive Metal… In Its Purest Form’ is aimed strictly at those who’ve discovered the band in more recent years and have yet to fully delve into their back catalogue, or people out there who might be dipping their toes into Crowbar territory for the very first time. Either way, this is a sound representation of what they have to offer.
Store for Music
Review by Mark Holmes
18th May 2018
DISC ONE: Odd Fellows Rest
DISC TWO: Equilibrium
DISC THREE: Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form
"Three albums over a three year period, of nothing but quality sludge. Crowbar were evidently on a (steam)roll during this time."