Anatomical Venus by Black MothRelease date: February 23, 2018
Label: Candlelight Records
This feels like a big moment for Leeds-London metal band Black Moth; a new label, a new line-up and a new, higher level of expectancy of the band as their profile has slowly grown since their last album, Condemned to Hope.
Anatomical Venus is the first album with new guitarist Federica Gialanze, previously of an all-female Sabbath tribute act, and fans who have seen the band perform since she joined have noticed a heavier, denser sounding Black Moth emerge as a consequence. New label Candlelight Records must be hoping that the band have lost little of their ear for a tune and that Harriet’s songwriting is still as engaging and inventive as it has proven to be thus far. In fact for this reviewer it’s the band’s canny knack for welding witty, unusual, sometimes zeitgeist-straddling songs to a palatable grungy-doom backing that has been their undervalued USP. Whilst Harriet has often written from the female perspective or of female characters, such as on the arch ‘Tumbleweave’ or the saucy ‘Looner’ (both from Condemned to Hope) this is the first time a whole album seems not so much pansexual in its perspectives but entirely possessed of a feminine soul. Indeed Harriet, in press for this album has said this album is heavy because of the women in the band, not despite them – thereby explaining the bands recent increased musical intensity. This is no way diminishes the input of the male three fifths of the band, whose muscular, gritty and creative playing underpins the album and provides the channel by which the female rage and wisdom may best be presented.
Opening number ‘Istra’ finds the band operating on a much larger scale, operatic in its sweep, it sets a benchmark not only for the album in terms of ambition, but establishes the tone and even raises the bar for their peers: this is how you open an album. The goddess of love, Aphrodite is invoked on ‘Istra’ and depictions and representations of womanhood loom large throughout the album, whether in the goddesses addressed and celebrated in ‘Istra’ and ‘Moonbow’, the wonders of Mother Nature in ‘Tourmaline’ or through the siren-like webcam girl who symbolises all the dangers of our digital fascinations on ‘Screen Queen’.
The centre-piece of the album is ‘Severed Grace’, about the anatomical Venus dolls of the title. Life-size wax dolls with removable organs, made beautiful and even wearing pearls they were made a time when corpses were not readily available to examine, and their beauty reveals troubling attitudes to women. They seem to say that a woman’s beauty is not intrinsically linked to her life and that their bodies can be possessed and inspected by men at their leisure. Of course with it comes the spectre of necrophilia as Harriet breathes “Her organs are her gift to you, come in, come in, come in“. Musically it is slower, at the grungier end of the bands sound, better for Harriet’s coo and beguile as she plays the seductress, daring you to enjoy the show. To a longtime fan it’s classic Black Moth fare, transgressive and full of black humour, but the more you live with the tune the creepier it gets.
The majority of the other best songs are harder, faster but with newly acquired touches of post-rock tones and psyche. The single ‘Moonbow’ is already a classic cut, featuring an incredible Iommi-esque riff that dances above the chorus like a dark fire and ‘A Lover’s Hate’ is a fierce, punky vent, but features a killer twin guitar attack that will have your horns raised and your neck snapping as its emotional warfare rages on.
When the band released debut album The Killing Jar six years ago they were callow youths when compared to the life-hardened, seasoned road pros we find at work on Anatomical Venus, and yet not all rock bands reflect their greater experience to any notable or profound degree. Not so Black Moth who have developed a darker, more sophisticated sound whilst retaining much of what made them interesting in the first place. That this album was recorded almost a year ago has in no way diminished its power, in fact in the wake of the recent #metoo campaign, the BBC pay scandal or the seedy charity dinner revelations there couldn’t be a more timely moment for a rock band to soundtrack the thoughts and experiences of smart, angry women.