From the four corners of Avalon did gather the keepers of the flame of doom, drawn together by the power of Thee Riffe to save the world from the evil powers of Emo…or something like that.
Groan are the latest in a long line of bands to straddle the doom and stoner camps and inject it with a lethal dose of trad metal. The most remarkable thing about them, however, is that as they were recording the album they barely even knew each other and live spread across the country like lost souls in search of a band. Files were sent backwards and forwards via the power of the internet and slowly an album took shape that pays tribute to, not only the recording skills of those involved, but also the sheer class and level of professionalism in the song writing and performances that transcends the disparate nature of the band and gives them every illusion of being a band who have paid their dues in the clubs and toilet circuit of the UK.
“The Sleeping Wizard” may not be an epic album, only 7 tracks in total but in so many ways it kicks more ass than most of the albums that have been released by established time served bands. Groan understand that it doesn’t have to crawl to be doom as all 7 tracks here grab little pieces of Cathedral, a touch of Pentagram, a soupcon on Trouble and a side order of Witchfinder General. Riffs abound in tracks such as “Witchy Woman” and “Psychedelic Demon” that border on some sweet sweet boogie!!! These are very old heads on some young shoulders…there is no pretence here at creating anything new and innovative…this is a tactical blast of ROCK!!!! Where Cathedral have now disappeared up their own collective backsides trying to sound like some obscure 70’s prog band, thank the Gods of Rock that Groan are keeping the riff alive and well and giving us what Cathedral have failed to do over the last two albums.
The insane shaman Mazz delivers the best vocal performance I’ve ever heard from him…self assured, strident yet more restrained than in his previous band Battlewitch. Perhaps the stronger, weightier material here is what he’s long needed to flex those classic throat muscles. Beserkowitz drummer Steve lays down some serious Bill Ward inspired grooves, even on a slower track such as “Deadly Omens” the groove is enough to make you spill your pint in a club!!! “Deadly Martyr” rolls along on a lovely shuffle that almost makes it seem like the younger brother to Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf”.
The D.I.Y production certainly gives this release the same sort of lo-fi charm as those very early Sabbath albums…maybe lacking in a little of the stomach churning weight you might want to hear behind such a fine collection of rumbling riffery…but certainly no disgrace. If these guys could get it together to hit a full studio to record I think the results could be enough to make grown men weep with joy.
Since recording this album Groan have actually overcome the odds stacked against them by distance and managed to play some very well received gigs. It goes to show you don’t have to live in each others’ pockets to find your musical soul mates!!! From such humble and unlikely beginnings a truly great band has the potential to emerge, let’s hope they succeed in maintaining their current level of creativity and momentum and continue to deliver the crucial spirit of rocking goodness that the doom scene has been crying out for for such a long time. Ignore the vile, headache inducing cover and beg, steal or borrow this album people…you need Groan in your lives far more than they need you!!!
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall