Black Moth – Anatomical Venus (Candlelight Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Friday, 19 January 2018 04:00

Black Moth artworkIntentionally or not, the spirit of 2017 looms large on the third Black Moth record. Between its themes of femininity and objectification and the band’s established doom-with-a-twist inclinations, Black Moth’s ‘Anatomical Venus’ could very well have slotted in nicely with the similarly themed and sonically-inclined 2017 releases by King Woman and Chelsea Wolfe. Where they differ enormously, however, is the approach – massive riffs make for bigger tunes and Black Moth aren’t in the game to play with atmospherics so much as to completely own the stage every time they step into the spotlight.

 

And stepping into the spotlight definitely seems to be something within the Yorkshire band’s grasp, having appeared on bills alongside some of the biggest names in stoner rock and doom metal, whilst also making periodic appearances at every festival from Download to Bloodstock, Damnation to Camden Rocks over the past four years, attaining a sizable following and significant media interest in that time. It’s not hard to see why – even on the band’s previous two releases they have exhibited a strong inclination towards massive sounding songs and particularly in the live environment they take on a crossover quality which suggests the potential for mainstream success – after all, if Royal Blood can make it massive on the back of a bunch of mediocre riffs (and a couple of isolated great ones), why can’t Black Moth achieve the same with that formula reversed?

 

The kick-in to opener ‘Istra’ suggests the achievement of this potential, the song hitting a rampaging pace within 45 seconds that’ll leave the listener’s head-a-bangin’ and toes-a-tappin’. These moments of unbridled joy and triumph are one of the biggest differences between Black Moth and your standard doom-tinged fare; the heaviness is still there, but as opposed to the aforementioned King Woman or Chelsea Wolfe records (where strife is internalised and converted into a wall of impenetrable heaviness), Black Moth pick up power and pace to really get the heart pumping. If the cry of ‘Aphroditeeeeeeeeee!’ aren’t an obvious enough signifier, we are also given lyrics like “I dare you, black stone goddess – give me all you’ve got” to really drive home the fact that BM are very much ready to go, shouting at gods and the devil alike.

 

Contrast has always been a big part of the Black Moth sound and ‘Istra’ once again serves as the perfect example of this, the song’s out-and-out slab-heavy moments perfectly accentuated with intricate moments of ethereal guitar work, laying a blueprint which makes full use of the dramatic impact of the loud/quiet dynamic. ‘Moonbow’ takes that energy and hammers it in place with a smorgasbord of twisting riffs, the almost Alice In Chains like mini-harmonies adding a whole new melodic depth to the core Black Moth sound, albeit one which is (sadly) sparingly used.

 

 

If riffs (guitar and bass alike) power the Black Moth engine and drums provide its physicality, it is vocalist Harriet Bevan who provides the internal combustion to really lift the songs off the ground, her power and energy infectious as she snarls out condemnations on tracks like ‘Sisters of the Stone’ or the unsettling coyness of ‘A Thousand Arrows’ (which feels reminiscent of the serial-killer intensity of Toadies ‘Possum Kingdom’, particularly when Harriet utters the line “You trust me, don’t you?”). The band are like wildfire when riffs fly off unchecked – so much modern stoner has become bogged down with a sluggishness that (perhaps appropriately) seems to stem from the genre’s drug of choice and a desperate adherence to groove even when it doesn’t fit the template of a song, so to hear a stoner rock band absolutely tear the roof off is an absolute joy, time and time again.

 

That said, while the band have always had a mixture of paces and tones throughout a record, this dynamic starts to show signs of strain in the face of the decidedly more thunderous approach the band take on ‘Anatomical Venus’. The opening rampage of tracks one through three is almost completely negated by the jarring shift to a more rhythmic approach on ‘Buried Hoards’ and the record somewhat suffers from it, losing enough momentum that it feels out of place (particularly when things take off again two tracks later on ‘A Lover’s Hate’), creating an effect which isn’t entirely unlike a hurdler taking a stumble right as they hit their stride. Which isn’t to say that the slower tracks of ‘Anatomical Venus’ are unnecessary – every record needs its breathers and ‘Buried Hoards’ is a great song in its own right (throwing up more than a hint of the cosmic/spiritual cocktail that makes Monster Magnet such a great listen), it just feels out of pace when there is still so much energy the band have to expend, even more so as the record grinds completely down for ‘Severed Grace’, losing pace almost completely.

 

But, that loss of momentum doesn’t last long; ‘A Lover’s Hate’ is the lightning bolt song of the album, howling straight into the listener’s brain to send the synapses flaring. If you find yourself complaining the fact that Wolfmother never managed to match the energy and pace of ‘Woman’ and ‘Joker and the Thief’ stick this one on – you definitely won’t be disappointed. Follow up ‘Scream Queen’ adds in some rock n roll influence and (though this might be the news that Fast Eddie Clarke has died at the time of writing) there feels like more than a smattering of greasy Motorhead spirit to the bass tone in the song, adding another level of influence to the band’s sound.

 

Black Moth have always had an element of genre-literacy to their sound, elements of different bands and inspirations creeping in across different songs (after all, how many bands can you name that cite L7, Swans and Mastodon as influences in the same breath?), but this element is really emphasised on ‘Anatomical Venus’. The doom influence has most certainly subsided on this record, but its appearance on ‘Tourmaline’ really helps the Trouble-some itch, it and follow-up ‘A Thousand Arrows’ laying some seriously powerful riffs on the table late in the game. Driving us home with a last defiant growl, ‘Pig Man’ brings the whole record full-circle, its cascading riffs and tumultuous drumbeats making sure that the album doesn’t go quietly into the night.

 

It stands to reason that some of the record’s energy and buzz is largely cultivated from how much the band have grown over the past four years. Having been recorded and ready since sometime early last year, the record’s thematic appropriateness to the issues which finally came to a head in 2017 seems largely incidental and yet, much like the stoner/doom sound that the band inhabit so well, there is a timelessness to it that reminds us that its relevance and importance cannot be overstated.

 

Expectation can be a great and terrible thing, capable of both elevating the listening experience and completely ruining it. As such, ‘Anatomical Venus’ can take a few listens to really ‘click’, its lack of overt singles and instantly-gratifying songs demanding more attention than modern music audiences are generally given credit for (which is an unfair aspersion for the most part, but straight-up anthems have an undeniable ability to bring even the heaviest band commercial and critical success – just look at Code Orange). But, invest the time to actually sit and listen to these songs and you’ll find that Anatomical Venus is the record that Black Moth have been threatening to make their whole career thus far, and one which suggests very exciting things for the future.

 

This likely isn’t the Black Moth record that will catapult the band to superstardom, but it is the record which wonderfully illustrates and epitomises the appeal of the band in the first place. On ‘Anatomical Venus’, Black Moth refine their sound into something which will reinforce previous impressions, offering a souped-up version of the band’s core formula which will delight the fanbase and no doubt gain them a few new listeners in the process. In a year that sees new releases by stoner rock royalty like Corrosion of Conformity, Monster Magnet and Fu Manchu, Black Moth show that although they haven’t got a ‘Wiseblood’, ‘Powertrip’ or ‘Action is Go’ in their catalogue at the moment, the (smoke) signals are there for them to get there very soon.

 

‘Anatomical Venus’ is released on 23 February.  You can get your copy HERE.

 

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