Personnel: Kirk Windstein (vocals, guitar); Steve Gibb (guitar); Rex Brown (acoustic guitar, acoustic 12-string guitar, keyboards, 8-string bass); Pat Bruders (bass guitar); Tommy Buckley, Craig Nunenmacher (drums).
Audio Mixer: Rex Brown.
Recording information: Middle Ear Studios, Miami Beach, FL; Noizelab, New Orleans, LA; Piety Studios, New Orleans, LA.
Crowbar stalled out after the 2001 LP Sonic Excess in Its Purest Form. Leader Kirk Windstein was dealing with Down, membership was in flux, and Crowbar's infamous label woes were a constant headache. But the long-running New Orleans sludge metal outfit wasn't going to go out like that, and Windstein started the resuscitation process in summer 2003. He tapped original drummer Craig Nunemacher, and Pantera vet Rex Brown offered to handle bass and production. Down II producer Warren Riker also signed on. The result is Lifesblood for the Downtrodden, a typically pummeling tribute to the Art of the Riff, but an album that also finds new methods of mayhem. Windstein's vocals never waver from a raging and vengeful wronged-soul growl. But his guitar work searches out tense melodies amidst the animalistic main riffs, and Nunemacher and Brown are relentlessly rhythmic without sacrificing dynamics. "Slave No More"'s slight shifts of time signature are incredible, increasing the song's power while highlighting its pained chorus. "Coming Down" suggests the Deftones, "Fall Back to Zero" shuttles between a swirling limbo of sorrow and an explosively percussive chorus, and "Dead Sun" alters the tempos yet again behind one of the album's most ferocious Windstein riffs. (The guitar line, roughly tabbed: "Da-na-da-na-DA-naah-[space]-da-deh-deh-deh-deh....") Lifesblood isn't an album to change minds about Crowbar. It spits out chunks of sludgy metal with plain and simple intent, just like all the band's records have. It gives Windstein the room and the reason to scream oaths like "I got a call to rule the underworld -- that passion burns in me" and "Dirt underneath me but light up above/Destroy what's in your way and never lose love for yourself." It's Crowbar's return to recording, and fans will love it. ~ Johnny Loftus