Crowbar-The Serpent Only Lies

If I were to describe Crowbar’s now lengthy career with one adjective, I would say steady. Not so much to be applied to the band’s effective and well-worked brand of sludge metal, but rather the way in which they actually take their time in producing studio output. Indeed, Crowbar have never been accused of rushing new albums for the sake of mass appeal, and that’s perhaps what is so respectable about the band itself. Nevertheless, Crowbar have stuck to a tried-and-tested formula for a quarter of a century now, and they aren’t about to deviate from the norm in the future either.


New album The Serpent Only Lies is a very typical Crowbar record, but in no way does it ever falter or step one foot out of its comfort zone. Naturally, this presents a sort of “doing what the band do best” work ethic, but the band’s latest effort ensures that those who have enjoyed past records will definitely enjoy this. The album opens with a heavy, sludgy riff courtesy of first track ‘Falling while Rising’, and you can instantly feel the weight of the instruments bearing down on you. The band acknowledge that a mid-paced feel throughout is the best way for this song to flow, but in no way does it ever feel like it’s going through the motions. The hook-laden riff work in the verse sections feels menacing enough to demonstrate Crowbar’s unique twist on sludge metal, and Windstein’s non-dramatic doomy wail is once again the icing on the cake.


That said, there’s not a whole lot to get excited about thereafter, as the rest of the album seems to get stuck on auto-pilot. Admittedly, this problem affects the first half more than the second, but to really get into an album requires a consistent likeness for all the album’s components, not merely a few. ‘Plasmic and Pure’ and ‘I am the Storm’ are filled with forgettable material, plodding on rather than surging through a bleak void of heaviness and making sure the listener truly feels the repercussions of this sound. The latter is what Crowbar have succeeded at time and again in the past, but here it seems non-existent and, for want of a better word, empty. That said, the second half of the album is where Crowbar seem to unfold their bittersweet, melodious material, and this affects quite a few songs. ‘Surviving the Abyss’ echoes ‘Repulsive in its Splendid Beauty’ albeit with a much lighter guitar tone, ‘Embrace the Light’ is strangely uplifting stuff for a band who have always chosen to wallow in the more negative aspect of mental health, and ‘Song of the Dunes’ sounds like a band ready to unleash their acoustic material. As polarising as these songs turn out to be however, they do eventually give light to the fact that, when they want to, Crowbar can be versatile-more than you’d think. Unfortunately, these latter tracks don’t quite bring the album out of a creative slump, but they do open Crowbar up to a world of open-minded songwriting.


The Serpent Only Lies is certainly one of Crowbar’s more inconsistent releases, and the seemingly weaker musicianship brings the experience down a few notches in the end. Yet with a legendary reputation and a trademark sound, Crowbar also don’t have anything to prove. The fact that this latest effort is far from the band’s best will not change anybody’s perception of their role in the world of extreme metal. Perhaps Crowbar will work on releasing a more memorable, notable effort next time round, but at least this is a strong reminder of what the band can do.



Released: October 28th, 2016


  1. Falling While Rising
  2. Plasmic and Pure
  3. I am the Storm
  4. Surviving the Abyss
  5. The Serpent Only Lies
  6. The Enemy Beside You
  7. Embrace the Light
  8. On Holy Ground
  9. Song of the Dunes
  10. As I Heal



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