ALBUM REVIEW: Crowbar – Zero and Below

From the swamps of Louisiana, legendary New Orleans sludgelords Crowbar return with another collection of songs so uncompromisingly heavy that each one arrives with its own gravitational pull. As entirely expected, Zero and Below (MNRK Heavy), the band’s twelfth full-length studio release pulls absolutely no punches, delivering even more high-quality riffage with the same single-minded determination that saw them smash their way onto the scene over thirty years ago.

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Interview: Crowbar – 25 Years Of Sludging Out The Metal


25 years is a milestone for any musical venture, and with Crowbar, they have crafted their own style around a slowed down tempo, riff oriented metallic rock sound that is often emulated but rarely topped.

You may recall some of their music videos appeared on a then popular MTV show called Beavis & Butthead, where viewers got a taste of two moronic animated youths cackling along and giving oddly scripted critiques to music videos of the time. They were chosen as one of those bands.

“We sent Mike Judge a package with a video, a t-shirt….’hey, here’s a couple videos of our band Crowbar. Have fun…make fun of us.’ Sure enough…we’re on Beavis and Butthead! What?! We thought it was great.”

“Occasionally…ok maybe once a year, somebody will say something and we’ll watch it. It’s great and it’s an honor to be on the program. It’s a great show,” recalls Crowbar frontman and guitarist Kirk Windstein, about those early years and the exposure they got from the iconic television series.

They released their tenth album earlier in 2014 titled Symmetry In Black (eOne), which reaches a new milestone in the band’s career. Sticking to a sound that they as much as their hardcore fans know very well, they created a record that hits as hard as they sound.

They began writing the record following Windstein’s departure from Down, the iconic riff rock outfit he was part of until 2013. From that point he made his focal point to be Crowbar and it began with the writing of the new album.
“I didn’t even start writing until September [2013],” explained Windstein. “We entered the studio in December. It was pretty close. Our mindset was good is not acceptable. It has to be great. I told that to the engineer. I produced. I think we accomplished our goals and everything else we set out for the record.

“I co-produced with Duane Simoneaux. He’s an engineer, but he adds a lot. He helps me with guitar harmonies and rhythms like guitar, piano, bass, drums, whatever. He’s a jack of all trades. He understands everything. He did so much work on this one that it’s co produced.”

One of the changes that came with his departure from Down was parting ways with bassist Pat Bruders, who until recently was doing double duty with both bands. Having to make a choice, Bruders stuck with Down and Windstein having to replace him with former Thy Will Be Done bassist Jeff Golden.

“I kind of gave him an ultimatum. I said I’m only doing Crowbar. If you want to stay in Down I understand that. But I said you can’t be in both. I’m happy and that’s all that counts. We have Jeff [Golden]. He’s a great guy and he’s one of my best friends now and he rocks with the band with us now.”

Making that decision did not always sit well with his peers as well as critics alike, but Windstein was never one to do things but his own way. “You have some people who said I should have stuck around with Down. People think I’m nuts, but I’m not. I believe in Crowbar. Even though Down’s a bigger band…you know who our crew is? My wife. She works for free. As much money as I made with Down…I work a lot harder. I carry my own guitars and set up my own shit. I don’t give a fuck. That’s the way I started out and that’s the way I am. It’s humbling.”

Photo By Meg Loyal Photography

Photos By Meg Loyal Photography

Windstein spoke about reaching this golden moment in his career, and whether it comes with any real surprise that he reached it at all.

“Yes and no. I mean the young dude in me was determined to do it. But to think the band has ten records and 25 years in, while a lot of bands have one or two records and fall off the face of the Earth. To be doing the same band 25 years in, it’s pretty amazing.”

He is proud of the sound he helped shape, but is a modest guy who appears more about the music than anything else. He became part of a musical movement within New Orleans who loved heavy music with a distinctive sound that sounded like no other. What came after that took a life of its own.
“I’m not surprised that it did and I’m not surprised because we did something that nobody else had heard or a genre to put us in. They made a genre called sludge. To me it’s just heavy music. They made it for bands like Crowbar and Eyehategod. Ok it’s close enough! Sounds good…”

“We didn’t know what to make of it. The public didn’t know what to make of it. To me it’s the highest honor to hear all these great bands call us an influence. We appreciate that very much.”

Photo By Kaley Nelson

Photo By Kaley Nelson

Crowbar has had a history of members coming and going, and some returning at various times. But despite their shuffling of lineups, Windstein has maintained good relations with many of them over the years.

“I keep in touch on and off with Craig Nunenbacher, obviously Jimmy Bower, Todd Strange a little bit, Matt Thomas emailed me out of the blue. I haven’t talked to him in years. It’s kind of weird. The guys who played on the records pretty much. I see Sammy [Duet] around New Orleans all the time.”

“Me and him [Jimmy Bower] kind of started it together, to be honest. ‘I wanna play guitar in a band’ – so he started Eyehategod. I would teach him stuff over the telephone on guitar – fret five, do this…back then we had nothing to do. It was cool. We kind of started around the same time as Eyehategod. It was our vision to do what Crowbar does”.

Photo by Meg Loyal Photography

Photo by Meg Loyal Photography

One thing that is undeniable is how Crowbar’s sound has grown over the years with their ‘less is more’ approach, and crafting a powerful sound that fans have grown to love.

“It’s because WE get better. The odd thing is, I’m 49 years old but I’m still the 13 year old kid with the tennis racket playing air guitar to KISS. The passion is stronger than ever. It’s stronger than it’s ever been to do Crowbar. It’s 25 years. I spent half my life doing it.”

As for Crowbar’s impact on music, he says he has not changed much but experience has groomed him into what he is today. “I’m the same guy I was but it’s me. I’m the same man, kid, punk mother fucker, but at 49 years of age. I did my time on stage and that’s where I belong and I do my thing. I do it stronger and harder and my heart is in it.”

Interview: Rei Nishimoto