First off, let’s put to bed immediately the notion that in embracing a bit more, you might say, melody, in their newest release, Hampshire hemp-lords Moss have in any way toned down the power or heaviness in their sound. OK maybe a tiny bit, however any rumours of their wimping out have been grossly exaggerated, this album is disgustingly heavy, if you want guitar tones that still sound loud and punishing even when you turn the volume way down, and that’s all you want, buy this bloody thing immediately. The guitar sound on this is heavier than anything recorded by Electric Wizard for one, and most other doom bands for other.
However the big change from their terrifyingly brilliant swamp of fear that was last album proper Cthonic Rites, (which basically conjured up Khanate demons fucking Sleep backwards to suffocating effect), is that former screamer Olly Pearson has put on his flares and run for the bus to the Britain of the 1970s, with all its brilliant food, class war and fake punk, and the spectre of Maggie rising on the horizon. To be precise, he has scampered, tripping over the laces on his bad trainers, all the way back to 1971, and the album Master of Reality, by this band from Birmingham called Black Sabbath. (This is the best album ever made in the doom genre by the way, if that isn’t already obvious to you.)
And because Olly is renowned to be a bit of a troublemaker (antics at this year’s Roadburn festival raised a few eyebrows), I am going to say that this is one of the greatest vocal performances I have ever heard. Actually it’s a brilliantly judged, monotonous wailing session, counterpointing the crestfallen guitars in a not exactly pleasant, but eventually hypnotic way. A warped, nasal hollering that does Ozzy without trying to out-do him, and is clearly aware (unlike Oswald occasionally perhaps), that it’s not singing in some sort of blues band. He does unleash some great screaming during the latter phase of the opening title track, and I could have done with a bit more of a a mixture throughout the album, however a conscious decision has been made to up the ‘melodic’ element, and generally, it works very well, even if it makes things a little less unsettling. This is doom to the max, ie it doesn’t make you want to do anything except for lie on the floor and let the mud slowly cover your grateful corpse.
Yes the perverse pleasure of negotiating their grim, sonic wastelands of the past may have gone, there’s no longer the feeling of being slowly hauled to hell across a blasted landscape by furies, but what we have now is a strangely satisfying doom, a peculiarly British tweak on the genre which is all rain, pub fights and missed opportunities, but somehow has a resolute power at its core. And it’s not just ‘comfortably’ retro, there’s something in its Britishness that is always cold and unpleasant, there’s not a lot of incense here, if there is it’s tempered with the faint smell of piss.
One more thing, the plodding, pleasantly anonymous drums of the past have also been given some more Bill Ward-y dynamics, propelling the sound a bit more towards classic doom territory. So this is a great example of the genre, just as relentless as yer extreme doom in its own way, and like the great Pombagira, shows a band stretching its wings, to very solid effect.
Scribed by: James Parker