By: Jake Murray
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Released on September 15, 2014 via New Heavy Sounds
EXCELLENT!!! *Steve Vai guitar lick* This review marks something of an anniversary for me. This anniversary is not from some sort of Pagan calendar, but rather that it was in the Mayan year 2012 with the release of Black Moth‘s debut album The Killing Jar, when I was snared by our dear editor and shackled on the spot to my writing post. Since that gloomy summer’s day I have toiled under crippling deadlines and been fed nothing but riffs and table-scraps on the rare successful completion of a review. So, it is with great pleasure and honour that I write about the return of these Northern arctiidae with their huge second album Condemned To Hope.
As ‘Tumbleweave’ smashes the album into motion there are a number of thoughts that spring to mind: firstly that there will be absolutely no fucking around. It then immediately becomes clear that the last two years of extremely heavy touring has had an incredibly strong effect on the bands writing and sound. Unless you checked, you might even be convinced that producer Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds/Grinderman) had departed from the project, as the stylised, almost psychedelic stamp of The Killing Jar is far less prominent, with the band opting for a dryer, more live sound. Yet, while the unique stamp of effects and production-madness of the band’s debut [no cowbells from hell this time!] is somewhat subdued here, the subtlety of what remains is a far more rewarding and overall satisfying leaving the songs themselves to shine and new careful elements to discover with every listen.
At this point Harriet Bevan’s lyrics absolutely must be pulled up. On first listen, and further listens (until the lyrics sheet had to be requested) there were a number of moments thinking “did she just say…” and, yes, usually she did. Condemned To Hope is littered with moments of brilliant, artistic lyricism, such as in the title track “Turbulent firmament, clutter in the atmosphere / The hand of order is ever at chaos’ throat.” but also with moments of sheer humour and silliness. It takes a certain kind of band, and a certain kind of humour to write songs about pepperoni pizza, WKD and helium head-rushes, and Bevan really nails it [see also: ‘Looner’ “stake your plates, crack an egg on my breasts, love”]. These moments tend to ring truest in those songs that stink of this second-era stoner-rock movement bands like Red Fang (guys if you haven’t toured together yet, sort it out), such as powerhouse blasts of fuzzy wonder ‘Set Yourself Alight’ and the insanely good ‘White Lies’.
Another interesting development, and some personal highlights, are the songs that break the mould of expectations. Nobody could predict from The Killing Jar that quieter, quirkier songs like ‘Red Ink’ or ‘Slumber With The Worm’ would make an appearance. Of course, this is Black Moth, so it’s all fucking grunt and guts, but there’s a true element of natural progression that really stands to impress. Other honourable mentions in this respect go to the kind-of-cheesy Sabbath homage ‘The Undead King of Rock n Roll’ and then the typical Black Moth staples ‘Room 13’ (another personal highlight) and the closing title track, which seems more a nod to the end of their debut days than anything else.
Condemned To Hope is an interesting album to say the very least. After the first listen my reaction was a stern “Well this is obviously nowhere near as good”, but that was a foolish first-listen mistake often made by listeners: First, we forget that the passage of time does interesting things to the sentiments attached to music, and so I judged it unfairly based on having rinsed and repeated The Killing Jar to the point of absurdity. Secondly, Condemned To Hope, is a far more mature album with a clear and conscious development and progression and that is an extremely difficult thing to pull off as a band. Sure, there are moments of fluff like ‘The Last Maze’ which seems to only bog down the momentum, but there are hundreds more moments throughout the record that with every listen solidify the single truth: that Black Moth are an up-and-coming, force to be reckoned with at the head of a new generation in English rock music… and that is EXCELLENT!!!