Groan - _The Sleeping Wizard_
(Doomanoid, 2010)
by: Chaim Drishner (7.5 out of 10)
Despite the purple-pink and green colors adorning the artwork of this adorable little extended play album (27 minutes long), and regardless of the fact that happy stoner qualities abound on this album, some of the songs are quite epically bleak.

This, the debut album for the young UK-based band Groan, is among the best modern stoner metal albums this reviewer has recently discovered. Not only do the band adhere to the basic stoner "rules" in the highest fidelity manner, but also do they not neglect the style's inherent psychedelic factor, which in this case is smeared all over this recording. To that -- and that's the band's own development, we guess -- Groan add some tragic qualities to selected songs, an epic traditional doom metal feel: you know, these larger-than-life melodies being cross-referenced with dark medieval musical vistas, but always with a wink of the eye, not to take the musical content too seriously. That's the kind of sonic concoction we're dealing with here.

The music on _The Sleeping Wizard_ is simple and fun, employing gritty and intoxicated guitars, a dominant bass guitar, solid drum section and an exceptionally good high-pitch vocalist with a strong voice that manages to remain masculine and of the non-whimpering kind.

The music captured on _The Sleeping Wizard_ is very dynamic and embracing in nature; it flows effortlessly from beginning to end, concluding the album within a heartbeat, so repeated pushes of the 'play' button are needed; it engulfs the listener with pleasant familiarity and warmth rarely accomplished by music that usually aims at being as hostile as it possibly can.

Yet somehow, the heaviness is never compromised here. On the contrary; _The Sleeping Wizard_ is one of the heaviest stoner rock albums out there, its metal ingredients are more than evident, its power and fervor on a tour-de-force plateau from the very first moments of the beautiful and epic "Ride of the Antichrist" to the very final seconds of "Ancient Space (Master of Time)", until silence strikes.

Even though Groan was established in 2009 or so, being a very young looking quartet of musicians, _The Sleeping Wizard_ exhibits an exceptional level of maturity. You'd find it hard to believe this music was recorded by such a young band, whose music can be easily associated with the granddaddies of stoner, such as Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, The Obsessed and many other great outfits from the annals of metal's short history. And indeed, Groan can effortlessly be associated with such giants, and rightly too.

This reviewer has not encountered many pure stoner metal albums nowadays, let alone good ones; had he, he would have surely thought _The Sleeping Wizard_ was one of the best. Take it as a hunch. But this is inconsequential, since: A) Not many stoner metal albums come across this reviewer's path, unless he's looking in the wrong place; and B) this album should not be regarded and looked upon as a mere post modern product for the nostalgic, but rather an updated version of a style that is pretty much relevant today as it was thirty or forty years ago; an album that embodies the bloodline of the godfathers of the style.

Any self-respecting fan of stoner rock of the heavier kind would do themselves a favor by picking up this excellent recording ASAP!


(article published 15/5/2011)

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