NOLA’s Crowbar, who most likely need no introduction as one of the founders of sludge metal, released their debut album Obedience thru Suffering 25 years ago today. In 1991, the marriage of doom, death metal and punk was an odd choice but here it is in all its sludge glory and it still holds up if you’re into this kind of metal. Slow, rebellious, and kickass for the time, Crowbar set the table for sludge bands going forward with their debut album.
I’m not sure many will claim that this is Crowbar’s absolute best album (I don’t think it is either, Odd Fellows Rest would be mine), but it still holds up well after 25 years. The sub-genre has -as a whole- moved past this more primitive sound. The recording quality is not the best either, but it isn’t kvlt black metal poor quality either. One of the biggest standouts to me is how Kirk Windstein’s vocals have changed a bit since 1991. A lot more consistently clear and clean, Crowbar may have helped raise the sludge metal tent, but living inside are dirtier, grimier bands today. Kirk’s vocals are a bit deeper now (more mature?) but still not the sludge standard of today and that’s ok.
It took bands like Crowbar, The Melvins and Eyehategod to really get the Southern metal-sludge thing going in the metal underground. Their longevity is a testament to the staying power of music you can get high and slowly bang your head to.
If there is one takeaway from Obedience thru Suffering it’s that this was a stage setting album of tuned down guitars, plodding drums and somewhat meandering jamming (see “My Agony”) that would become the core of sludge metal. Standout tracks here are the opener, “Waiting in Silence,” and the mid–album “4 Walls.”