Doomy, yet not so gloomy, with members hailing from all over the country, Groan blend the obvious trad-doom tropes; ‘Sabbath worship, fuzzy guitars, pentatonics, and orotund vocals in their wizard’s cauldron – but the end result is perhaps a little more lighthearted than might be expected.
For example, Electric Wizard, while to my knowledge having never written a song about a subject other than drugs and Lovecraft, and having song titles like ‘The Satanic Rites of Count Drugula’ still sound very dark and nihilistic; they play up their subject material’s themes rather than the inherent silliness of their subject material’s themes. Groan’s philosophy comes across as almost the exact opposite. They are very much a band who revel in the cheesiness of their genre’s theatricality. This is a good thing too; it’s a sad day indeed when a metal band can’t poke a bit of fun at the inherent corniness of metal itself.
So what does it sound like? Well, if you like trad doom, you know pretty much exactly what to expect. Massive walls of riff, analogue drums, and Mazzareth’s vocals, which to my ears at least sound like they’re moving away from the pompous and bombastic school of doom vocals to more classic rock-esque pastures. There are hints of Ozzy, and Dio like belts woven into Mazzareth’s performance, but he tends to steer clear of referencing the more melodramatic doom vocalists (barely a hint of Marcolin to be found). Indeed, the music has a larger chunk of classic rock influence than you might expect too. Given the choice between chromatic dirges and pentatonic bounce, Groan will always opt for the latter. The epic first verse dropout of opener ‘Ride of the Antichrist’ invokes more Iron Maiden than Iron Monkey, and the shuffling pentatonic grooves of ‘Witchy Woman’ borrow as much from Led Zeppelin as they do from early Sabbath. The most overtly doom track is closer ‘Ancient Space’, which is musically excellent, with fat bass grooves and droning dirges aplenty – although the clunky vocal melody founders a bit and undoes the track somewhat.
The production is good for the style. The guitar tones are fuzzy and warm but still manage to retain focus and aggression, as does the bass. The vocals are heavily processed too, adding a watery, 70’s quality to the proceedings which was doubtless intentional. To sum up the album, think Reverend Bizzare with Tony Iommi on guitar and Dio on vocals. You could do a lot worse.
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