I’m no stranger to Columbus’s legendary Alrosa Villa. I’ve been to several shows there myself, and way back in the day (meaning 2006-07), even played on its stage. The Alrosa is a mainstay for rock and metal acts rolling through Columbus, and its reputation precedes it; massive tours basically always seemed to land at this spacious club, and Crowbar’s 2015 Summer of Doom tour is no exception. I jumped at the chance to see the sludge metal legends live and expected all the goods to be delivered. With a strong opening bill composed of Lord Dying and Battlecross, this tour had all the makings for a memorable and entertaining metal show.

Local openers Youth Hostel

After local openers Youth Hostel’s invigorating blend of old-school punk and modern hardcore – even to sparse attendance – Portland, Oregon’s sludge up-and-comers Lord Dying took the stage, primarily playing material off of their most recent release through Relapse Records, Poisoned Altars with some older material thrown into the mix. Their crunchy, no-holds-barred, old-school take on metal was the best primer to get the ball rolling and sounded like a mix of High on Fire’s faster moments with the chest-crushing power of doom metal. Frontman Erik Olson commanded the mic with venomous energy, sounding not unlike the legend Kirk Windstein himself with pained, raspy yells over the band’s thick, ugly riffs. Their drummer was the star of the show, though; his manic, frenzied energy engaged the small crowd, which gathered and grew as the band’s set went on, and by set’s end, the band had received a very warm response from the group in front of the stage.

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Co-headliners Battlecross were quite a different dose: Delivering a razor-sharp and polished amalgamation of melodic death, thrash, and metalcore, the band ripped through a barnburner of a set with up-tempo numbers, including new material from an album to be released later this year through Metal Blade Records. Battlecross got a fantastic reception from the crowd and caused the night’s first true mosh pit to break out at points during the set as frontman incited the crowd to more action. Their high-energy set rarely lost momentum and was the best possible preparation for Crowbar to take the stage, even if their sound is a far cry from the low-and-slow approach of Crowbar.

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Crowbar have always been known as some dudes, who, even after a solid 30 years in music and on the road, are still incredibly humble despite their reputation as ironclad legends in heavy metal music. This was clear from the beginning. Frontman Kirk Windstein, metal legend that he is, still sets up his own gear from scratch, tunes guitars himself, and distributes set lists to the band. After a tense few minutes of near-silence in the venue, his raspy, gravelly voice poured from the PA with the unmistakable opening statement of their live shows as guitar feedback started: “The good news is, we’re Crowbar from New Orleans; the bad news is, we’re gonna kick your ass!” With that, the band erupted into the thrashy “Burn Your World” from the Broken Glass album. The crowd, probably about 200 people at that point, exploded into moshing, headbanging, and packing toward the front of the stage. Kirk’s thick guitar tone matched with Matthew Brunson’s molten guitar rhythms and Tommy Buckley’s mad skin-pounding to create a sound that was absolutely brutal, swamped in both pain and triumph.

Crowbar LiveWindstein interacted brilliantly with the crowd and kept everyone engaged in between songs as the Crowbar tuned their instruments. The band’s first half of the set was composed of old classic material, including a poignant rendition of “Planets Collide” and the melodic dirge of “The Lasting Dose” alongside the crushing sludge of “All I Had (I Gave)” and “High Rate Extinction.” To my surprise, only a few newer songs were on the set: “Walk With Knowledge Wisely” was off the charts in terms of energy, and “The Cemetery Angels” could have blown the roof off the place if it were any louder. The set ended with brutal renditions of the band’s famous cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” and the dark, lumbering “Existence is Punishment” before a stellar encore of “New Dawn.”

Even with a small crowd – for a band of Crowbar’s status, at least (and probably because it was a Sunday night) – Crowbar and their supporting bill brought the heat to Columbus on a muggy Sunday evening and proved that, often, the best shows are the most personal ones. I can’t predict how much longer Crowbar will be on the road considering the age of the band members, but their brutal set, when coupled with a bang-up mixing job (kudos to the house sound engineers at the Alrosa Villa!) was something I’ll not soon forget, and I am proud to have seen such legends on stage.

Set list: 1. Burn Your World, 2.Planets Collide, 3. All I Had (I Gave), 4. High Rate Extinction, 5. The Lasting Dose, 6. To Build a Mountain, 7. The Cemetery Angels, 8. Walk With Knowledge Wisely, 9. Symmetry in White, 10. Conquering, 11. No Quarter, 12. Existence is Punishment, 13. New Dawn (encore)

Crowbar are continuing the Summer of Doom tour throughout June and part of July.

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