By: Matt T.A. Smith

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Support: Limb | website

The Roadhouse, Manchester | October 3, 2014

The steep, darkened staircase that one must descend to enter the murky basement level; the rumbling bass increasing in intensity; the familiar concoction of smells comprised of stale air, sticky beer, and sweaty humans growing your nostrils; and the stage fog tumbling and rolling towards your feet; entering The Roadhouse, it’s hard to escape the feeling there could hardly be a more apt location for the sludgy mire of heaviness on display here tonight.

Nestled away on the periphery of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, an area currently experiencing a civil war between low-key venues desperately attempting to cling to its hip, artsy reputation, and the newer breed of bars and clubs aligning themselves with the sleeker, up-market aesthetic of the nearby Deansgate Locks, The Roadhouse’s cave-like interior manages to provide perfect solace from the concerns of the opposing organic scrumpy- and WKD-drinking masses above. None of that matters down here; only the primal powers of growling vocals, eerie guitar lines, and crushing drums that are being given a dank platform from which to burst forth.

Prior to the headline performance, supporting band Limb do a more-than-admirable job of drawing in the audience with their hypnotic, driving doom. Emerging from behind an ever-thickening veil of fog, the band’s incredibly impressive set is monstrously heavy, helped in no small part by a truly outstanding performance by frontman Rob Hoey. To affirm that his voice is one of the most powerful that this reviewer has ever experience in a live setting is no exaggeration, and that really is saying something. The combination of tight, unpredictable tempo-changes with the aforementioned growl, solidified by an assured stage presence, ensures that this is a band I look forward to seeing demolishing a headlining slot sooner rather than later, and judging by the audience’s reaction, I am far from alone in this yearning.

Wasting no time at all after taking to the stage, Black Moth explode into ‘Tumbleweave’, the first taste of a grinding performance that rarely stops for breath. Comprising of a perfect blend of the best of both of the band’s studio albums, they leave little territory unexplored, and with no obvious contrast between the capability to deliver newer and older compositions; always a distinct possibility when a band releases their sophomore effort, but one that Black Moth successfully flutter past.

Seemingly playing on top of one another, band members tumble and whirl around the stage, with just about every one (bar, understandably, the drummer) finding themselves playing from atop the clutter of amps and monitors that adorn the front of the stage at one point or another. Twin guitar lines wind around each other, with riffs and fuzz assaulting the crowd from all directions. Tonight’s particular highlight comes in the form of the deftly executed mid-set double-header consisting of ‘Chicken Shit’/’Blackbirds Fall’, with the former’s punk-rock grit juxtaposed against the latter’s punishingly heavy groove, inspiring mass headbanging encompassing band and audience alike. That being said, Black Moth’s instrumental aptitude is made abundantly clear on numerous occasions; from the screeching guitar solo during ‘Looner’, to ‘Room 13”s crunching bass, all tied together by Harriet Bevan’s howling overlying melodies, the band play not only with precision, but also with an infectious joyfulness quite untypically associated with their brand of ‘Sabbath-influenced stoner rock.

Under the ruby haze of the lighting that falls upon the crowded stage throughout the night’s performance, Black Moth manage to convey both a growling hunger to break free of the oppressive restrictions of The Roadhouse’s grimy enclosure, and a masterful confidence and command of the stage that can only be built upon paying their dues in beer-stained venues such as this. Whether Black Moth could retain these levels of control and intensity whilst holding true to the spellbinding nature of their dirty sound in less claustrophobic conditions remains to be seen, but if tonight’s performance is in any way indicative of the band’s future, then it shouldn’t be long before we find out.

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