Finding as much strength in grace and wit as in riff-driven heaviosity, Black Moth emerged from Leeds in the early years of this decade powered by the twin forces of Sabbath and Stooges, yet set alight (and apart) by a Grand Guignol charm and a melodious suss.
Their two albums to date for New Heavy Sounds have seen them propelling garage rock immediacy and dark abandon into the stratosphere with class and chutzpah alike, but it’s their third and brand new ‘Anatomical Venus’ outing that sees them travelling beyond these influences, emerging as unique and unclassifiable mavericks whose invention and intuition elevate them to fresh plateaus of righteousness.
What’s without doubt is that this is the heaviest Black Moth album to date; yet it also contains songs more naggingly indelible than anything they’ve thus far created, their melodic sensibilities now sharpened and matched by a steamroller-ing confidence of delivery.
Recorded by Andy Hawkins at his The Nave Studios in Leeds, and mixed by Russ Russell (Napalm Death, The Wildhearts), its hooks are as vicious as its riffs are monstrous. Central to this are the new creative partnerships formed following the arrival of new guitarist Federica Gialanze’, an axe-slinger whose background in both doom and thrash metal – not to mention love for Thin Lizzy, ’70s hard rock and the NWOBHM – helps her lock horns with the riff-mongery of Jim Swainston with alarming chemistry and finesse alongside the kinetic rhythmic drive of bassist David Vachon and drummer Dom McCready.
Moreover, inhabiting an era in which female heavy musicians still all too frequently find themselves compartmentalised, their gender treated as a genre or even of novelty appeal, vocalist Harriet Hyde – having previously by her own reckoning attempted to downplay her femininity in an attempt to render it less of a talking point – made a decision to explore its complications, challenges and contradictions in a manner that renders ‘Anatomical Venus’ a raw and empowering document of both her experiences and those of her co-lyricist Jessika Green…
“I feel that now more than ever it is vital for women and men to own and honour their full experience, unshackled and unburdened by patriarchal expectations,” she asserts.
The album’s name and central thematic icon, arrived at when Hyde was introduced to the 18th century wax models of the title, forms a powerful metaphor for the central tenets of objectification, the corporeal form and feminine psychology that inhabit songs like the rollicking, twin guitar harmony-laden ‘Sisters Of The Stone’, the shamanic battle cry of 'Istra' and the amour fou serenade, 'A Lover's Hate'.
“The Anatomical Venus spoke volumes to me,” reflects Harriet. “She embodies the male gaze, a history of men dissecting women in an attempt to understand her,
reveal her magic, snuff out her unruly flame, while all the time needing her to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing to their taste. These models are not simply practical medical models for education – they are fetish objects, women stripped back as far as you can go. But there is a look of defiance in their eyes as if to say, ‘keep looking if you like. I dare you. Peel back my skin and peep behind my ribcage, you won’t find anything unless I choose to tell you’.”
'Anatomical Venus' (the album) is an experience as beautifully crafted as it is viscerally compelling; as overburdened by brute force as infectious charisma; as likely to arrest the sensibilities of fans of Melvins and Kyuss as those of PJ Harvey and Patti Smith. It’s the sound of Black Moth as unique transcenders of the heavy form, and contenders for hearts, minds and banging heads alike.
From the cocoon they emerge, and it's proving to be quite the spectacle.