CROWBAR fans have been rejoicing with the recent return of original bassist Todd Strange following a 17-year hiatus. During this time, he focused on domestic life. The timing couldn't be more fitting since "The Serpent Only Lies", the band's eleventh full-length, is more than just a little bit reminiscent of its classic early material. The raw hardcore grit and more clearly recognizable melodic doom of that era stand front and center. In fact, everything that one would expect or crave from the sludge stalwart shines through. There are no surprises whatsoever, and really, it's hard to imagine that this would let down any CROWBAR fan.Yet simply ensuring that every box is marked on a checklist doesn't equate to success. Fortunately, the group has summoned the spirit of early CROWBAR material, and coupled it with the body and knowledge that the band has grown with over the last quarter century. "Falling While Rising" presses forward with purpose and power as if the band was Conan the Barbarian walking through a swamp toward his prey and victim. And judging by the misery of the lumbering riff concluding "Surviving The Abyss", Conan seems to be drunk and stumbling home reflecting on life viewed through the prism of negativity. Apparently frontman Kirk Windstein revisited the bands early influences and sound intentionally (TROUBLE's epic majesty surfaces during "On Holy Ground"), and while the aforementioned cuts reflect their prowess for slow, doom-driven monstrosity, drummer Tommy Buckley picks up the pace for the old-school hardcore surge in "I Am The Storm". But the unit's reconstruction of early CROWBAR is also merged with the nature of mid-period gems like "Odd Fellows Rest" and "Equilibrium" with the soaring, harmonized vocal melodies on "Surviving The Abyss" and "Embrace The Light". Windstein was born to write crushing riffs. He continues to churn out riffs that will likely make two Hessians driving around blasting the album simultaneously look at one another in acknowledgment of "that riff!” Which one? Those amazing riffs are peppered throughout the album. There are too many to count, though the key riff in "Plasmic And Pure" builds up to a boiling point seemingly designed as the cue for the end times. Once again, CROWBAR succeeds in delivering a shattering, primal sonic curb stomp.
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