CONDEMNED TO HOPE
NEW HEAVY SOUNDSBY ERIK SUGG
The world of heavy music has seen no recent shortage of good bands with female singers, often ranging from the pagan witches, to the thrift shop hippies, to the hypersexual, and even the masculine, “tougher than men”-types. Every style has the perfect fit regardless of the varying degrees of womanliness, and it’s clear that the heavy music world not only embraces women singers, but women in general. This constantly challenges that ages-old misconception that metal and heavy rock are for “dudes only.” Blood Ceremony, Witch Mountain, Kylesa, Royal Thunder, Jex Thoth, The Devil’s Blood... The list goes on and on. Black Moth, from Leeds, England, is one of the latest groups to feature a front lady whose vocal prowess could send most men whining back to their pub seat. Their follow-up to 2012’s “The Killing Jar” will drop in September of this year. If the response from their recent European tour with Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats is any indication, all signs are pointing to the upcoming “Condemned to Hope” as a record that will be cranked up and rocked out on both sides of the Atlantic.
The album begins with loud, dissonant riffs that chime into a midtempo groove with subtle Iommi trills. However, when Harriet Bevan’s vocals come into the picture it’s evident that “Condemned to Hope” is not out to join the ranks of Sabbath clonedom. In fact, Bevan’s lower-registered snarl, coupled with Jim Sclavunos’s loud, crisp production, brings an entirely different decade to mind. Rather than relying on classic ‘70s trademarks, some of the tunes sound like they’d be more at home on Soundgarden or L7 records in the ‘90s. “Set Yourself Alight” picks up the pace with a fist-banging chromatic riff that quickly cuts out for a bass/drum, vocals-only accompaniment during the verse, (a ‘90s rock staple.) Bevan’s wicked scowl slashes like a razor as she sings of “stargazing, drunken parasites.” Things take a rather sexual turn in the Nirvana-esque “Looner,” (although the song title itself more than likely negates any sense of seriousness). Sorry, fellas. When Bevan says, “I’d like to bang you!”, chances are she’s not talk about you.
One noticeable difference in the overall feel of this album is the absence of the gothic horror that was more prominent in “The Killing Jar.” That doesn’t mean this record is a ray of sunshine, however. It isn’t titled "Condemned to Hope" for nothing. It simply means the band’s heaviness and darkness has taken a turn for the misanthropic rather than the mythical. The four on the floor, middle finger blast of “White Lies” is evidence of this. Bevan states, “Life is cheap. You might as well sell it and be free for all I care.” Also, take a tune like, “The Undead King of Rock and Roll,” with its slow, southern doom riffing. It’s heavy and dark, but is heavier on fun rather than doom. A lyric like, “This groovy mover danced right into a coma,” is certainly no attempt to shroud the listener in darkness, (although it would be hilarious if it were). With many of the grungy, hard rock stylings throughout the record, Black Moth definitely seems more interested in kicking out the jams in lieu of burning incense on an altar.
“Condemned to Hope” may be a bit of a hard sell for the metaltheads and doom traditionalists who tend to hold bands suspect when they stray away from familiar territory. Be that as it may, Black Moth’s sophomore effort should surely find its way into regular rotation among lovers of all things dark and rocking. If a paradigm shift occurs in the heavy music world, where listeners tire of the low budget horror rock formula we’ve seen in recent years and want to hear something completely different in terms of tone, production, and attack, then Black Moth may very well find themselves in the catbird seat.