Pyres by Kroh

Release date: October 13, 2017
Label: Devizes Records

Kroh were formed five years ago by Paul Kenney, founder of hard core crust fiends Fukpig and ex-member of Mistress. They released their self-titled debut at the end of 2012 and at that time were a duo of Kenney and vocalist Francis Anthony. It was obvious from the outset that Kenney was trying something different, far removed from the filthy noise he’s been known for previously, the album was a somewhat jarring mix of industrial guitar, doomy atmospheres and a grand, poppy gestures. When it worked it was very good, startlingly original and strange, but at other times hammy and overwrought thanks to Anthony’s stagey performances.

And then Kenney must have had a re-think of some sorts and hired a full band, which now includes his former Mistress band mate, Darren Donovan (current Burden of the Noose bassist), Rich Stanton (also of Burden of the Noose) on drums, Paul Harrington on guitars and Oliwia Sobieszek on vocals to complete the line up. This version of Kroh released an album, Altars, last year and this new EP, Pyres, is a fairly quick follow up on the back of a well received set at this years Bloodstock.

 

So, a doom metal band from Birmingham, incidentally, with a female vocalist. Some strong traditions and a whole boatload of current peers then, but don’t expect Kroh to be more of the same, as Kenney and co. are still very much in the business of defying expectations and subverting genres.

That may not be evident on short instrumental opener ‘Triumph of Death’ with its eerie synths and thunderous, tectonic plate shifting riff. We’re soon, however, stuck into ‘Rigor Mortis’ with Oliwia’s calm, constricted voice levitating above more gargantuan riffs and crashing drums. There is a very strong melody at the heart of the track, no doubt why it was chosen as the video single and featured on this site quite recently. It’s quite an assault on the senses, Kenney and Harrington’s guitars like breeze blocks whilst the song itself and Oliwia’s clean vocals and closing synth riff almost do battle for the soul of the music. I have to confess I found it a little commercial and simplistic on first listen, but it really is an earworm of a tune.

For me the next two tracks, ‘Nemertean Girl’ and ‘Moriah’ are where the EP really succeeds, blending gothic drama, towering vocal performances and strong choruses into an incredibly potent metal melange unlike anything else I have heard in doom. Apart from the strength of the songwriting itself the real highlight is Oliwia’s vocals, often double tracked, she often sings in both a deep, stentorian chant and an angelic, gorgeously pure high counterpoint. Quite how all this works in a live setting I don’t know, but as a highly polished piece of album production, well let’s call it what it is – art, it is mightily impressive.

Kenney has talked openly about adding a pop sensibility to the works of Mayhem, of mixing Portishead with My Dying Bride and the like, but the two artists I am most reminded of, especially on ‘Nemertean Girl’ and ‘Moriah’ are Triptykon and Rotting Christ. The music sounds limitless, full of ancient wonders and horrors, divine and diabolical, and let’s not forget heavy as absolute fuck. The EP finishes with ‘Despair/Resolve’, at turns apocalyptic and mournfully epic, this is a band at the top of their game.

Stylish if heavily stylized, single-minded, artistic and yet surprisingly commercial Kroh have created something truly special on Pyres. This may be the start of something special.

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