Review by Will Harris
The concept of genre is a funny thing. Birmingham’s Kroh put themselves down as a doom band first and foremost, but if we take the first track of their debut self-titled album as their mission statement, it seems there won’t be many minute-dragging passages of bleak guitars and low, tortured growls. Instead, the listener’s immediately kicked in the face with an powerful and punchy sludge riff, which, it must be said, is a decent way to start almost any metal album.
It’s not a complete assault though, as vocalist Francis Anthony’s clean vocals soon bring a more melodic edge to the overall sound. And indeed the opener, ‘The Plant We Seeded’, does provide a kind of taster of the rest of the album, in that it features hard, simple riffs and memorable hooks. The former come in divers forms, whether it be the A Perfect Circle-esque opening of ‘Heaving Earth’, the dramatic two-chord punch of ‘These Butterflies’ or the crashy, slow sludge of ‘Inside’. Meanwhile Anthony’s vocals, Scott Weiland-like in their cries, are more hit and miss; the performances are solid, but as most of the songs here put prominence on the melodies, it becomes problematic when the singer’s voice can’t quite match up to the power of the band blaring behind him. On the other hand, when Kroh make the music work for the vocals, the result is immensely satisfying: the main bulky riff of ‘Fruits and Wine’ pounds beneath rhythmically-paired vocal line, while the driving power chords of ‘Luciphoria’ are perfect for the song’s pop-metal chorus, which even drops to an unexpected handclapped a cappella for four brief bars.
Such an unusual inclusion in a metal album is also startlingly fresh (it brought an instant smile to my face when I first heard it), and demonstrates a willingness to experiment atypical of many groups within the genre. There are times when this lets them down — the middle eights of some tracks feel either disjointed (‘The Plant We Seeded’) or incongruous (‘Inside’) — but elsewhere it seems to indicate that Kroh have the exciting potential to do something truly different. Similarly, the ambition of ‘How I Wish That I Could Know’ — a dark, brooding, semi-instrumental with moody strings and dire piano notes — is admirable given it’s only their first release, though the majority of material here is quite good enough to do it justice.
Kroh’s pairing of hard riffs and clean melodies should already be enough to win over many potential fans, but it’s the opinion of this listener that that the best may be yet to come; this debut might be flawed, but there are flashes of brilliance and ingenuity here and there. With some development, Kroh might not be the only ones struggling to pin a genre to them.
7 out of 10
- The Plant We Seeded
- Heaving Earth
- Stone Into Flesh
- These Butterflies
- How I Wish That I Could Know
- Fruits And Wine