@ The Garage, London
4th March 2014
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Photos by Inty Malcolm
When your band’s called Crowbar, The Garage seems like quite an apt venue. It could also work for the likes of Tool, Nine Inch Nails… Hammerfall… and a mechanic/handyman line that’s dying on its ass. Unlike tonight’s gig. See arrive at doors and the place looks dead with tickets still changing hands; give it an hour or two and there’s barely room to swing a crowbar without caving someone’s head in. Which might be the only way you’ll get to the bar.
A lot of bands simply can’t get away with calling the crowd c*nts. Suspicions are that DripBack (3/5) do it all the time, it’s the norm, and people would be more put out by a simple “How’re you doing tonight?” It’s their thing; friendly like. In much the same way frontman Wez postures and paces with the best, all shoulders back, head lolling forward, and scowls, but talks super nice come the breaks.
“Keep your mouth shut and your head down”, although said with more letters than that, goes the recorded into into the hardcore-flirting ‘Profit Driven War’. About as Lahndan as they come, it’s that accented edge that marks DripBack’s voice out as different. That and the fact they play their death/grind motley with true punk authenticity.
The band seem bothered by the lack of space on the Garage’s stage though; like caged animals stalking madness, and sadly that frustration doesn’t quite translate into performance. Still the front and centre crew are banging away, even if the momentum fizzles out long before it reaches the back.
I last saw Hang The Bastard (3.5/5) in 2012, and it seems that in that time they’ve managed to string up two vocalists. Using a lot of their old sound for rope.
Today’s (and assuming he’s not for the gallows as well, tomorrow’s) Hang The Bastard is voiced by Tomas Hubbard, the band’s one-time bass player, who screeches like a mouthpiece for possession into the mic from behind a screen of hair. Which is all right but literally makes for something of a curtain between crowd and fan.
And that sound that I was mentioning? Well they’ve let go of the ‘core’ elements and gone for as much groove as one one bass and one guitar can manage.
Which is quite a lot actually. Even though there’s a tech guy fiddling with the drums for half the set, if there’s an issue then it’s not really noticeable.
At times the quality of the music, laden down in sludge and dragged over stones, outweighs the vocals, which whilst different for the genre, sometimes jar and bump against the riffs. Still it’s bloody heavy.
Or so it seems until Crowbar (4/5) come in and sink all other battleships. With a carpet bombing of riffs, and then some. You’ve got to love a band who still set up for themselves after all this time, and Crowbar are that band. What’s more, frontman Kirk Windstein is in and around the merch stand up until show time, chatting with fans and posing for pics, when other bands would be laying around out back.
Spitting like a cowboy who thinks he’s still in the saloon, Windstein rumbles and roars into pit-starter ‘Conquering’, and so the riffs start falling. Even his speaking voice is as raw as a recently flayed ass, but that’s a good sign for this crowd. Despite how heavy their action is, Crowbar don’t just pound away with blunt instruments – there’s precision here, edges still sharp beneath any fuzz.
‘High Rate Extinction’ coils and crushes like a snake, and having almost digested the crowd Crowbar decide to give what remains another squeezing in the form of ‘All I Had I Gave’, with Windstein almost crooning the chorus line. Thing about Crowbar is they make the up-tempo and down-tempo work together; different sides of the coin as one. Only you’re never sure which side you want it to land on – slow and brooding or fast and driving. Better to just let it keep spinning on its end.
Things start to increasingly hang off the Sever The Wicked Hand peg with the title track seeing the drum kit take the brunt, and ‘Liquid Sky And Cold Black Earth’, which presses down so hard that you could for a second imagine it forcing sky to ground.
They don’t give us too much, maybe not enough. In keeping with Windstein’s regular-guy persona the encore is an unheralded affair but ‘The Cemetery Angels’ gives a send-off worth waiting around for.
Sure the news of Windstein’s departure from Down stung, but tonight you can see why he’s still smiling. Why everyone’s smiling. And with a new album about to drop, those grins are soon going to be wide enough to shove a crowbar in. Bite down on the metal kids, you’ll like it.