Croak - Croak II (EP) (2016)

Croak are a multi-national band, with foundations in Montreal, Canada and Grenoble, France. It stands to reason, then, that their sound do the same; wander and jump between one subgenre and another. But on an EP that is a mere four songs, three if you remove the melodic intro track, there is little to no time to lose. With Croak II, the five piece double down on the sound they've embodied for the nearly five years the band has existed. It's the genre tagging that could steer potential listeners astray, relying too heavily on the predetermined notions of what stoner rock and stoner metal sound like. Instead, this is an effort that requires you to come in with an open mind and unpolluted ears; Croak II is an example of tempered expectations, contrast, and chaining yourself to a boulder that you just can't shake. And it's all done in the blink of an eye.

There's no sense in hiding the obvious; the EP is too short. Painfully short, in fact. Clocking in at just about eleven minutes, there is little to no time for things to bloom fully. That said, it's quite the eleven minute ride. After a docile, restrained introduction, Virginia bursts forth with an incredible snap to the drum tone, a crisp, cutting sound that punches through your speakers like the fabled hot knife through better. The track is an exercise in high energy, a pulsing and pounding beat bolstered by a fair amount of guitar wizardry. But for every ounce of polish on the instrumental itself, the vocal track is that much more lacking. It fails to meet that high standard, almost feeling as though it's a completely separate entity. It fares better in the following track, but still misses the mark. Black Flag is the band's best track to date, spanning both of their EPs. From tone to execution, it provides fodder for even the most casual of listener to become immersed in their sound. And yet, the punk thrash sound of Montréal resonates more clearly, embracing the rough-around-the-edges vocal style rather than trying to sand it down.

The highs and lows of Croak II are in high contrast and on display throughout the effort, regardless of how short it may be. But if you've stumbled on their works looking for a long, meandering piece of stoner rock or metal, you likely won't find yourself leaving satisfied. That is to say, it's far more focused that you probably expected. Instead, it's packed to the eleven-minute-gills with tight riffs, booming percussion, and enough energy to take a rocket through its first two stages. Croak are on the verge of something, but after two EPs with varying degrees of success scattered across them, it's hard to tell exactly what the something is. Strip down the vocal tracks, and maybe the picture becomes more clear; keep them as is and the picture is murky. But either way, Croak III is likely to see the band find their groove in more ways than one.

6/10

Bandcamp - https://croakmusic.bandcamp.com/

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