Crowbar - The Serpent Only Lies (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Crowbar

The Serpent Only Lies (2016)

entertainment One


Just in time for Halloween, two of metal’s heaviest hitters have dropped scary new snake themed LP’s. Testament’s Brotherhood of the Snake and Crowbar’s The Serpent Only Lies take different approaches, but both are essential listening for the witching season. Each record has 10 tracks and a 46 minute run time. Both albums also have exquisite serpentine artwork by Eliran Kantor. The serpent has long been the symbol of evil, deception and even the Devil himself. It’s doubtful that either of these albums is going to do much to rehabilitate that image.

One of the more intriguing storylines surrounding The Serpent Only Lies was the return of founding bassist Todd Strange. He’s a throwback to the days when Crowbar was a real band, before it became just guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein and a revolving supporting cast. In the liner notes, Strange is thankful for the second chance. A little more digging reveals that Strange didn’t actually play on the album. Windstein did the bass parts himself. Fans will have to wait a little longer to see if Strange’s return affects the band in the studio. Regardless of who laid down the bottom end, there’s plenty of it and it sounds great.

No one will be surprised to learn that The Serpent Only Lies is crushingly heavy. Windstein’s songs continue to wallow in misery and despair. “Falling While Rising” and “Plasmic and Pure” open the album and are mostly slow, downtuned doom. “I Am the Storm” picks up the pace and almost gets into a Pantera type groove. The guitars and the bass sometimes blend together to create a thick wall of sludge. Most of the strongest tracks on the LP deal with pain. On “Surviving the Abyss”, the agony in Windstein’s voice is so real that you will feel agony. On “Embrace the Light” he aches to speak with a lost loved one again, and you will ache with him. The best song on the album is the title track, with its religious symbolism and hooky refrain. The verses nearly thrash before slowing for the extremely melodic chorus. Closer “As I Heal’ is a reminder that even in times of great suffering there is still hope. Despite a body of songs that seems to prove otherwise, Windstein still seems hopeful.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 20 years since Beavis and Butthead nearly made Crowbar a household name. The New Orleans based band has quietly (or maybe loudly) continued to make great, pummeling records. The Serpent Only Lies is Windstein and company’s 11th studio LP, and they are showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, they seem to be on a bit of a career upswing. Crowbar’s 2014 album Symmetry in Black was really good, and The Serpent Only Lies is even better.