London heavy rock troublemakers Groan have always asked the hard questions. How black was our Sabbath? What happens when wizards sleep? Now they return with the answer to another query that has plagued doom since Vincent Price donned the mantle of Matthew Hopkins: Who do you call when you can’t find the Witchfinder General?
The answer was right there the whole time.
It won’t take more than one listen for the chorus of Groan‘s “Witchfinder General Finder” to get stuck in your head — if it even takes that — but don’t be surprised if you come back for another round anyway. The Superhot Records-affiliated unit, whose last release was 2013’s Ride the Snake EP (review here), will issue their new four-songer, Highrospliffics, next Monday, March 23, making it available as a free download via their Bandcamp. As a sampler of their chicanery-laced wares, “Witchfinder General Finder” underscores the point that’s been true of Groan since their 2010 debut, The Sleeping Wizard (review here), namely that it’s about the songwriting as much as the goofball ethic. The four cuts on Highrospliffics manage to be ridiculous and ridiculously catchy at the same time, the band’s remaining founders, bassist Leigh Jones and vocalist Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen, joined as ever by a lineup changed since their last outing, with drummer Zel Kaute returning and newcomer guitarist Lindsay Hamilton making a first appearance here.
And while Groan are probably due for a follow-up full-length to their second album, 2012’s metallized The Divine Right of Kings (review here) — to which the closer of Highrospliffics, “Buried in Leather,” seems to hearken sonically and thematically — it’s hard to complain about any new installment offered. On Highrospliffics, “Witchfinder General Finder” is preceded by “Run out of Fucks,” a suitable starting point, six-minute, solo-ized doom groover with fervent stomp and, yes, a resonant hook, very much in the style that has become Groan‘s own over the last half-decade, making the over-the-top seem perfectly reasonable in some alternate universe of grandiose proclamations and accompanying soar-ready leads. “Witchfinder General Finder” itself is the most infectious of the included tracks, with an effective call and response in the chorus and an irresistible nod leading to its shredding solo, Hamilton making an immediately distinguished impression.
“March of the Druids” follows suit with its hook, but works in more of a build structure, pushing toward its final apex, raucous but not necessarily out of control. Both it and “Buried in Leather” are under four minutes long, working in a classic verse/chorus mode light on pretense and irony-free, but well aware of the laugh they’re having. Gang shouts back Mazzereth in “March of the Druids,” which is no less satisfying than “Witchfinder General Finder” tonally, and “Buried in Leather” kicks in with a rougher, sharper edge, its intro giving way to a motoring rush of a verse after about a minute as they thrust forward to the repeated final chorus, “When I die and they lay me to rest/Bury me in leather and a cut-off denim vest,” unabashed in its fist-pump righteousness and as inviting a heavy metal refrain for crowd participation as I’ve heard from Groan since “Gods of Fire” from The Divine Right of Kings. As ever, Groan are having a party. You can’t hope to stop it, you can’t hope to contain it. You might as well get on board.
The Highrospliffics EP was recorded by Slabdragger‘s Sam Thredder and is out on Monday. Check out “Witchfinder General Finder” on the player below, followed by the complex lineup history in all its twists and turns, and enjoy:
If you’re a stranger to the Spinal Tap-esque history of Groan, here it is: Groan were formed in 2010 and put a few demos online that rapidly caught the stoner/doom scene’s attention. They released their first album, The Sleeping Wizard, on Doomanoid Records that year. The band soon earned a reputation as an exciting, entertaining and completely ridiculous force live, with charismatic (and generally barefoot) lead singer Mazzereth acting as ringmaster general at gigs. Confused and amused fans soon grew to know this group as a party-doom band that is high and giggling, not a stoner rock band that is tuned-out and derivative.
In the nine months after the album was released, the band played live all over the country, smoked the GDP of a small African nation, wrote off a brand new Ferrari California, decorated their rehearsal room with gifts from hookers, and even split up and re-formed in a day. After a split EP with Finnish doomers Vinum Sabbatum in 2011, Groan‘s second album was released in 2012 by Dutch label Soulseller Records, The Divine Right of Kings, to great critical acclaim.
With new members Zel Kaute (Vodun, ex-Pettybone) and Mike Pilat (ex-Ocean Collective) joining on drums and guitar respectively, the band took a heavy metal sidestep with their five track EP, Ride the Snake, in late 2013. With yet another new lineup in 2014, Groan went back into the studio with founder members Mazzereth (vocals) and Leigh Jones (bass) joined by long-time drummer Zel Kaute and new guitarist Lindsay Hamilton. Across their five releases, Groan have proven their ability to write songs that marry catchy hooks with heavy riffs and plan to dominate 2015 with the release of Highrospliffics and the destruction of many live music venues.
Mazzereth – Vocals
Leigh Jones – Bass
Lindsay Hamilton – Guitar
Zel Kaute – Drums