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Condemned To Hope

New Heavy Sounds (2014)
Rating: 8.5/10

British doom / stoner merchants Black Moth may be just another occult-influenced, female-fronted bunch of plod rockers to the sceptics, but for me, the latest slab of granite to emerge from this Leeds-based quintet is one worth hearing – especially if you’re into the very trendy brand of mystical, retro rock, but at the higher end of the scale.

Quite a few of you were impressed by 2012 debut opus The Killing Jar, but for me it only hinted at what this combo was capable of. And so now we have second offering Condemned To Hope; an 11-track stomper of an album and one which hints at not just doom metal or occult rock, but brings forth to the masses the garage influence which featured strongly in Black Moth’s first incarnation as The Bacchae.

Although not as sinister as numerous acts doing the rounds, Black Moth still exudes flamboyance and, above all, decent songwriting skills in order to make this a winner. When I first introduced this band to friends, a few stated how they were not comfortable with how the vocals of Harriet Bevan sat alongside the weighty riffs, but I think Condemned To Hope will go a long way in convincing the naysayers who have become fed up with female-fronted revival rock bands.

Although I’m a huge fan of Blood Ceremony, Jex Thoth, Purson and a few others, the likes of The Oath have yet convince me, but Black Moth really have something which enables them to stand out. Rather strangely, it’s more than likely the accessibility in an “indie” rock sort of way which separates them. Although there are moments of riffage which naturally and obviously quote Black Sabbath there is a strong element of early 90s grunge here, certainly within Bevan’s scale, which is completely removed from the usual psyche of the current crop of retro groovers.

With ‘Looner’, we have a talented bunch of individuals who seem more comfortable sipping on a dose of L7 than anything remotely gloomy. The album sports some cracking riffs, but more so on this superb track which is more garage / punk than bandwagon-jumping occult metal. To call this “stoner” or “doom” would be extremely unfair, but in a sense, I can also see why some of the current metal crowd is not happy with this rather, dare I say it, pop-edged brand of fuzz-rock.

But hey, you can’t please everyone and I’m pretty engrossed within the layers of this cheeky sophomore effort that boasts such delights as the groove ’n’ roll ‘Set Yourself Alight’ and the infectious, upbeat stomp of ‘White Lies’, which is a joyous amalgamation of Brody Dalle (The Distillers / Spinnerette), The Priscillas, Hole and Lunachicks. For me it’s a rollicking rock ’n’ roll opus that boasts attitude, big songs and energy twinned with a touch of grimy glam to boot, and one can only commend the twin guitar attack of Nico Carew and Jim Swainston. Forget your doom metal connections or stoner pigeonholing, because Black Moth is nothing of the sort as testified with the soaring, grunge-soaked melody of ‘Red Ink’ with its Nirvana chimes and the quirky twang of the playful ‘Slumber With The Worm’ which is more psychobilly grunge than occult-rock revival.

Okay, so if you want something woundingly heavy, droning and drenched in Aleister Crowley imagery, then I’m sure there are plenty of other folk-influenced phantoms to take your fancy. If – like me – you’re after something a bit sprightlier, then you should be drawn to these guys like a moth to a flame. This time round it’s fair to say that Black Moth is less of the Sabbath and more of the early 90s, and the fact that this is a good thing has shocked me to the core, having been such a hater for the grunge invasion of 1992.

Neil Arnold

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