Black Moth - The Killing Jar
In recent times, the city of Leeds has been producing a clutch of bands, such as Pulled Apart by Horses, who crank their amps loud and play hard, leaving venues across the UK a shaking mess of blood, sweat and rattling teeth. The latest troupe to come from this newly emerging hard-rock hub are Black Moth, who this week drop their own stoner/desert rock inspired juggernaut The Killing Jar. As well as current geographical pedigree, the band have also drafted in Grinderman and Bad Seed member Jim Sclavunos on production duties to add further weight to their sonic barrage, and his influence can certainly be felt in a mix that captures a crisp live sound that still cracks and distorts in all the right places.
Opening track 'The Articulate Dead' sets the ball rolling with a frantic overdriven bass-line and jagged hammer-on guitar that recalls Queens of the Stone Age at their most direct and uncompromising. The band sound tight and brutal, and it's a testament to both the production and performance on this debut that Harriet Bevan’s vocal is able to push its way to the forefront and drive the bands music in a way that is normally reserved for male vocalists with only the mightiest of beards. From this opening Black Moth launch into the driving Fu Manchu-style riffage of 'Blackbirds Fall', showing that whilst they're part of new a hard-rock stable, their influences are very much steeped in the sludgy groove of 90’s California. This is evident in the way that many of the songs are underpinned by the powerhouse rhythm section of Dave Vachon and Dom McCready, who lay down solid lines across which the guitarist Jim Swainston is allowed the freedom to pick and stab effectively, such as on the brilliantly titled 'Spit out Your Teeth'.
If there is perhaps one flaw in this fine debut it's that the band can almost be seen to stick to their formula too faithfully. It would have been nice to see some more stripped back groove or experimentalism to open out the album a bit stylistically. 'The Plague of Our Age' hints at these possibilities with cowbell and tambourine weaving thorough the verses and sounding like they're being played from down the bottom of a well. This is coupled with an ethereal bridge where the riff disappears and Bevan spits her lyrics aggressively to a backdrop of whirling synth lines, before firing into a chorus laced with almost ironic vocal "ooh’s." This sonic diversion gives the subsequent staccato bile of 'Chicken Shit' more emphasis, and displays the kind of dexterity that made Kyuss stand out from the crowd back in the 90s, but this is the only such instance on The Killing Jar and the album can perhaps be seen to trail off a little towards the latter stages.
However, this is still a very impressive debut from the Leeds quartet and it’s exciting to see a new band taking big riffs and solid grooves and laying them down on record in a way that really conveys the energy and purpose of the songs. The combination of Sabbath infused sludge with a strong female vocal presence also offers an added dimension that will undoubtedly destroy eardrums and teeth (in a good way) during the course of their upcoming live-shows.