VERSUS: Crowbar vs. Take as Needed For Pain

VERSUS: Crowbar vs. Take as Needed For Pain

Welcome to another edition of VERSUS, the series where we look at two albums in heavy metal history and compare them to each other and see which one is the better record.

On this edition, we are going to get thick and sludgy with a sludge metal matchup with two icons and pioneers of the genres. Both from New Orleans, Louisiana creating the NOLA sound of sludge metal with two legendary releases. Each band bringing their own unique take and style to the genre, with both of their releases going on to be influential in the sludge metal scene. Let’s get this matchup started in a battle I’m calling “The Battle in The Bayou”.

In this corner we have Eyehategod with their 2nd album, 1993’s Take as Needed for Pain. The band’s harsher, more abrasive take on sludge metal began to grow in popularity with their 1990 debut In the Name of Suffering. With the agonizing vocals of front man Mike Williams and their southern-bluesy sludge-tinted tones of guitarists Jimmy Bower & Brian Patton, the band’s follow up had a lot to deliver and the band did with this record. With many publications calling it one of the best and most influential records in sludge metal.

Opening up with “Blank”, the album begins with a feedback wall of distortion before the main riff kicks in, then another wall of distortion adds more doom and gloom to the sound of the track. Drums by Joe LaCaze add forceful impact and add to the darkness of the band’s sound when Williams’ vocals kick in and we are off to a dirge of sludgy depressing metal. A contrast to a lot of sludge metal, the song is actually a pretty fast tempo for a bit with vocals matching the intensity. Bass is high in the mix and adds a more booming sound to the guitars, creating that sludge metal sound you hear today. With a lot of atmosphere with the playing and building to a slow chuggy riff with feedback-laden guitar notes hanging in the ether just make it the pinnacle Eyehategod trademark.

Songs like “Shoplift” feature strong opening bass playing by Mark Schultz, giving him a spot to showcase in the madness that this record is. The guitar playing might be simple and slow, but with the drums adding to the pacing and moving the songs along, it almost gives it a stoner metal feel you would hear on releases from Kyuss or Electric Wizard.

30$ Bag” is another funeral dirge of a slow, sludgy & southern/blues tinged guitar sound through the feedback. Definitely a slower tempo then what the record has been so far, but with Williams’ vocals, it adds a chaos and almost a feeling of him having a breakdown in the middle of the song. The album’s title track, “Crimes Against Skin” & “Sisterfucker (Part 1 & 2)” showcases the band’s love of the low and slow feel to their music and building this dark and desolate album all the way to the album’s closer “Laugh It Off”.

Their opponents, fellow NOLA sludge legends Crowbar with their 1993 self-titled album Crowbar. Produced by Phil Anselmo of Pantera, Crowbar’s sound is more along the lines of Black Sabbath but way lower, and way slower. Almost a sludge and doom metal hybrid. Fronted by vocalist and guitarist Kirk Windstein, the band released this album one month before Eyehategod released the previously discussed album. With a more straight-forward style and better production, let’s see how Crowbar left their influence on sludge metal.

Opening the record, we have “High Rate Extinction,” with chuggy palm muted riffs, along with pounding drums starting the song off, this sound and tone the band would perform on this record would be the quintessential version of sludge. With Windstein’s vocal hopping in stereo on the verse section, and his guttural & bowel bellowing delivery, his voice is a trademark of not only the band but a sound that fits the genre beautifully. With a slower mix but impactful drums, with some light bass popping in during the drum fills, the song is a strong opener for this album. The band’s first single off the album “All I Had (I Gave,)” the thunderous drums Craig Nunenmacher delivers throughout this song and the rest of the record give a great driving force and accentuate the playing of the guitars, adding to the down-tempo sadness. Windstein’s vocals shine again on this track with matching harmonies on the chorus and adding more anguish and sadness mixed with anger on the delivery. Ending with a legendary sludgy breakdown near the end, the song is a sludge metal classic and was even lampooned by MTV degenerates Beavis and Butthead when they saw the music video on the show.

Will That Never Dies” & “Fixation” continue the gritty, dark and ominous tone of the record. With drum fills on the latter track add nice additions to the songs, and done in just the right amount, and not overdone. The band’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” is done to a brooding and ominous perfection. With the melancholy vocals, slow pacing and playing of the guitars, it almost gives off a feel of what would happen if Sabbath covered Zeppelin? The band makes the song their own and is a standout of the album in my opinion.  Other standouts include “Existence is Punishment” and the album’s closer “I Have Failed” which as you listen to the snail-like pacing of the song and the delivery Windstein gives in the chorus, picturing the crowd yelling the song title back at him live gives the album a strong closer to this classic album.

So, after we have pulled ourselves out of the Bayou and cleaned off the sludge, which album won? To me, the winner is Crowbar with their self-titled debut. Crowbar refined the sludge metal sound and took that Sabbath-esque sound, adding more distortion, slowing it down and defining it for the masses. The band’s releases have just gotten better, even up to their 2022 release Zero and Below. Eyehategod has also had consistent releases with the follow up to this record, 1996’s Dopesick, being another acclaimed release and continuing to bring their harsh and chaotic mix of sludge as late as 2021 with their album A History of Nomadic Behavior. Honestly, both bands have great releases and have left their marks on sludge metal and no matter which band or record you like from them, you will not be disappointed.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won this battle? Leave your comments in the comments section below and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been VERSUS.

Who Won This Battle? - Online Poll -
What’s your opinion? Vote now: Crowbar, Eyehategod…

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