UK Doom n’ Rollers Groan impressed with their 2010 release The Sleeping Wizard and are back with new full length Divine Right of Kings. After even the most cursory listen, it’s apparent that this release is a lot more cohesive than their previous output; this sounds like an album, rather than a bunch of disparate tracks that happen to have been stuck on a CD together.
Musically, it’s still the same old Groan. That is to say the kind of doom that borrows heavily from classic rock, while still being recognisably doom (interestingly, the classic rock aspect is less exclusively focused on grim Sabbath venerating dirges, and unusually for a doom band contains plenty of Zeppelinesque bounce), but things have undergone something of a refinement. The songwriting is leaner and more concise than before, and the hooks are stronger, the band favouring a verse/chorus template with the occasional atmospheric aside or structural foray, but never allowing the music to meander or stray too far from the song itself; even the title track, which clocks in at eight minutes feels like it needs every riff it has.
The tracks are pleasantly varied too, and each one is memorable for its own reasons, from the stern Candlemass cum Sabbath riffage and chanted verses from the book of revelation that herald intro track ‘Weeping Jesus’ to the Jimmy Pageisms of ‘Let’s Have a Pint at The Crooked Cock’ and the epic space rock of the title track Groan cover plenty of ground, but the album never seems unfocussed, the songs tied together by their universally retro themes and the album’s quirky production job, which hearkens back to the ‘70s in its choice of tones and effects, particularly those applied to singer Mazzareth’s vocals, but is actually far too clean to be truly convincing. The kick drum is a huge, clicky metal kick which smacks right through the mix and dispels any whiff of stonerish retro dirt, and there’s a deal more separation in the mix than anything from that period could lay claim to.
All in all, this is a definite improvement on what’s gone before. It’s not perfect, Mazzareth’s lecture about the “healin’ power of rawk” that precedes ‘Magic Man’ was corny enough to raise a grimace, and there are one or two sub-par tracks – ‘Dissolution’ in particular didn’t seem to go anywhere – but these are niggling complaints in the face of what is fundamentally a good record; it’s a rare album indeed that doesn’t have a couple of duff tracks, and doom as a genre is firmly rooted in cheesiness. This is a fine effort from Groan and rocks harder than anything from the bands who actually profess to be classic rock revivalists that are kicking about these days.
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