Sludge metal stalwarts Crowbar from New Orleans recently laid siege to one of the coolest venues in Bergen, Norway, more specifically the atmospheric and darkly lit Hulen, which is an old bomb shelter located inside a rocky hill. What better place to experience the southern harbingers of gloom and misery than in such a venue, right? The turnout was slightly disappointing in that only 150 or 160 people (give or take) decided to show up and support the great band on this particular Sunday night, but for those of us there it was nothing short of unique and majestic to experience Crowbar in such an intimate setting. Usually one catches these guys on much larger stages in the capital cities of Europe or at festivals, so this one was a real treat for the fans.
The band went on stage a little after nine o clock and kicked things off with the face-melting ‘Conquering’ off the classic Broken Glass record and Crowbar never looked back. The crowd was loving every morose second of the song material and a lot of energy was exchanged between the band and the audience throughout the entire performance. Usually the sound is a little uneven and rough around the edges at Hulen, but not this time around; this time we were blessed with an inhumanly heavy and punchy sound that felt like a blow to the face, just as it ought to be when enjoying Crowbar in a live setting. Main man Kirk Windstein (guitar/vocals) was obviously having a great time on stage and seemed to really dig the vibe of the place and the feedback from the crowd. Not one single tune seemed out of place or even slightly boring or redundant. The band plowed through ‘High Rate Extinction’, ‘All I Had (I Gave)’, ‘The Cemetary Angels’, ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely’, ‘Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth’, ‘Existence is Punishment’, and ‘Like Broken Glass’. Those sharp and caustic riffs contain more passion and feeling than one can possibly fathom. The thing is that Crowbar’s thunderous compositions are both emotionally intense and borderline uncomfortable in places, but strangely addictive and wonderful too. The way in which those slow and monolithic riffs go hand in hand with bleak and introspective lyrics is simply mind-blowing. On top of the aforementioned tracks, the brilliantly crafted Odd Fellows Rest record figured quite prominently in the set list in that Crowbar are celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The entire place fucking exploded by the time the first few notes to ‘Planets Collide’ were aired, which was great to see, and ‘To Carry the Load’, ‘Scattered Pieces Lay’, and ‘…and Suffer as One’ sounded equally impressive. The interplay between bassist Todd Strange and the hugely talented Tommy Buckley on drums was out of this world and made a huge impression on yours truly.
Crowbar showed all of us who were present at Hulen what the big boys down south are doing and what utterly crushing yet moving music is supposed to sound like. The entire affair was not only solid, cohesive, and coherent in terms of musical quality and variation, but also highly confident and disciplined. You could tell that they very much appreciated the great response that they got, but then we in turn were blessed with one of the best and most memorable metal concerts to have taken place in Bergen in recent years. It was nothing short of monumental.