Crowbar’s latest offering of doom-laden Sludge is an enjoyable, although somewhat safe, journey through human suffering.
Following on from 2014’s Symmetry In Black, Crowbar have taken a step closer to accessibility on The Serpent Only Lies, at times sounding more like an angrier version of Down than a proper Sludge band, especially in guitar work. This is not necessarily a disadvantage though; the melodic riffing is nearly always excellent, complementing the band’s angular rhythm section nicely, as on ‘I Am The Storm.’
The album does, however, suffer from an obsession with repetitive palm-muting. Again, this is not necessarily anything to complain about; it is actually used quite well on tracks such as ‘Plasmic and Pure’. But in other cases it stinks of creative drought, making songs like ‘The Enemy Beside You’ incredibly monotonous, as chugging guitars repeat themselves endlessly.
‘On Holy Ground’ recalls the best moments from the band’s more forward-thinking albums, with definite nods to the records Odd Fellow’s Rest and Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form being immediately recognisable. This track also highlights the best features of Crowbar’s sound, focussing on creating melody in their extreme vocals. The vocals in Crowbar’s discography have always been unique (a combination of a dry, almost-dehydrated rasp with a chant-like droning quality), so hearing them used for melodic purposes is a huge bonus.
Overall, The Serpent Only Lies is a reasonable addition to the discography of such a legendary band, but perhaps not an addition set to make waves in the Sludge scene any time soon.