Kroh’s relatively brief lifespan hasn’t been without its’ ups and downs. With one album and a couple of split releases to their name, “Altars” represents a fresh start and a new line-up for the Birmingham band. Main man, Paul Kenney has allied with Darren Donovan and brought in Rich Stanton and vocalist, Olivia Sobieszek for this second full length and in the process has breathed new life into some of their older tunes.
A brief moment of purity, innocence and a sense of sadness introduce the album with angelic vocals before the pure doom of “Mother Serpent”. A dense blast of atmospheric weight lies underneath the smooth vocals from Olivia. The riffs are very bottom heavy and bombastic. “Living Water” is the first of the re-recorded tracks and harks to the swirling heaviness of current era Electric Wizard. The vocals are the stand out consistently and their layering creates a dark, rich aura that weaves its’ way through the music and occasionally reminds of Purson’s Rosalie Cunningham. More percussive, but no less relenting is “Feed The Brain”, with its’ tribal tones and sense of horror flick drama that is a nice twist from the more traditional doom metal structures.
“Malady” opens a section of the album that feels far darker with a mood that is foreboding and disturbing. Anchored by more of a classic doom sound on “Break The Bread”, the band make good use of light and shade to create some sledgehammer moments. However, it’s on “Stone Into Flesh” and “Cold” where Kroh seem to really come into their own. There’s a conviction in the lyrics and the overall delivery that suggests a personal journey being laid bare, especially on the latter with its’ haunting spoken word delivery. “Precious Bones” is a proper big belter to close in classic old school style and bookends the album nicely.
Paul Kenney led the way with the album’s recording and from a production point of view it feels very well balanced. This line-up feels tight and has delivered a well-crafted set of tracks that fit together and complement each other nicely. There’s also some neat twists in there that help to set Kroh apart from the field a little. I’d definitely be keen to catch them live to get the big effect of these songs. Birmingham does it again, it seems.
Editorial note, although originally released on a limited run of 100 copies by Devizes, this album has just received a new lease of life via Italian label Minotauro Records here http://www.minotaurorecords.com/product-tag/kroh
(8/10 Johnny Zed)