Review: Black Moth – Anatomical Venus

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Label: Candlelight Records

Retro-rock can be a pretty uninspiring place. How many bands that sound like Black Sabbath does the world actually need? And yet occasionally a band will come along, clearly recalling the masters of old, whilst managing to put their own spin on a long-established sound, making it sound fresh and urgent once more. Black Moth showed hints of their potential on previous albums The Killing Jar and Condemned to Hope, which took the retro stoner/doom template and added a garage rock, almost punk sense of energy to the sound. But with Anatomical Venus they have recorded a record that sees them step out of the shadows, feeling more confident than previous efforts, casting a dark spell via the medium of psychedelic soundscapes and classic rock riffs, all tied together with some of the strongest hooks this side of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. In other words, it’s catchy,  heavy, and really rather good.

It’s instantly noticeable how much more spacious the songs on Anatomical Venus feel in comparison to previous records. Whilst they had a tight production that really emphasized their garage rock energy, and lent them a certain claustrophobia, Anatomical Venus feels instead like a record made by a band aiming for much bigger stadiums – there are points when the album sounds absolutely huge. This spacious production lends the album a sense of wonder, as if Black Moth are exploring the possibilities of their sound.

Of course, a strong production is worthless without the songs themselves, and Anatomical Venus has some great songs. Opener ‘Istra’ shows how the band are adding more psychedelic touches to their sound, with its mid-tempo stomp feeling like a trip to another world; first single ‘Moonbow’ and ‘A Lovers Hate’ demonstrates that the band still have plenty of capacity for up-tempo rockers; whilst ‘Severed Grace’ is six minutes of ominous darkness, like the soundtrack to some long-lost horror classic.

The album as a whole moves like some recently unearthed relic, full of retro thrills, yet also with an energy that makes it feel anything but old and tired. Whilst Anatomical Venus may recall a host of other bands – Black Sabbath most obviously, but also the likes of Kyuss, The Stooges, even a bit of PJ Harvey – it has that special blend of charisma and talent that means that, even if it recalls other bands, at no point does it sound exactly like anyone else. Part of this is down to vocalist Harriet Bevan’s strong, distinctive vocals; but it’s largely down to the confidence that Black Moth put across, the feminine power of the lyrics, and the way that Anatomical Venus will shift between different textures and styles between and during songs. It’s not an album that is content to sit still and follow the same path, but is constantly exploring the potential of what this style of music can still do. There may not be quite the same immediate rush of energy as on previous albums, but Anatomical Venus feels instead like an album that has greater staying power, with its songs being more considered and textured, and packed full of more obvious pop hooks; it’s a shift for the better, as Anatomical Venus is a very addictive listen, and the best record the band have made to date.

Anatomical Venus is due for release on 23 February 2018. It can be pre-ordered from various stores and formats at this link.

 

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