Let’s travel back in time to 2006, or more specifically to ‘The Beast Presents: Invaders’ – a well-celebrated compilation album released by Kemado Records. Perfectly encapsulating a stoner moment in time, the record featured a group of bands who stood at the forefront of a hard-rocking, tub-thumping evolution of the gospels that Kyuss, The Obsessed, Sleep and Black Sabbath had already preached down to us all. Some of these acts (Danava, Big Business, Witch, Pelican, Torche) kept a relatively flat fame trajectory and went on to become well-revered masters of the underground. Others (Diamond Knights, Warhammer 48k, Dungen) bled further still into the deep river of obscurity whilst a select, elite few (High On Fire, The Sword) simply sky-rocketed and went on to conquer the world; touring arenas in Metallica’s back-pockets. Back in 2006 though, all of these acts had one clear thing in common: The Riffs. Not necessarily razor-sharp lazer-beams of precision-driven rage, nor spacey, hulking doom-drones, but fat, chunky, chugging riffage was the order of the day; the best example of this style was arguably laid down in the very first few notes of ‘Invaders’ lead-off track ‘Circle of Servants Bodies’ from the very first Saviours EP, ‘Warship’. Even now in 2013, as a scene, we’re still experiencing the fallout of the mid-2000s Chug movement. But things have moved on a little and a blend of The Chug with at least a few other musical elements and hard rock styles is frankly essential to the success of any notable new stoner-doom release.
Hamburg, Germany’s The Moth are a relatively new act having formed in late 2012 and have absolutely mastered The Chug and all its key components on their debut album ‘They Fall’. The underlying issue for me is that a lot of chugging is really all they manage to achieve in this 40-minute display of merrily pumping, yet rather static heavy metal. QOTSA-y opener ‘Won’t Return’ gets us off to a promising start and remains one of the more dynamic moments on ‘They Fall’ alongside the refreshingly clean solos of ‘This Is the Lie’. Yet it’s early on into the album that you suspect that The Moth aren’t dealing in much more than straight-up riffing as Frederick Mohrdiek (guitar/vocals) and Cecile Ash (bass/vocals) thunder and pummel their strings over and over and over again, gradually making their way slowly around the same scales and chords in a cyclic fashion which ultimately wears thin quite quickly.
Yes, I know, riffs by definition are meant to be repeated regularly to gain impact, power and tension, but titular tracks ‘The Moth’ and ‘They Fall’ simply take this too far and just chug and chug and chug and chug atop Philipp Kampff’s solid, but lumbersome drumwork. Put simply, many of the tracks on ‘They Fall’ simply go nowhere and start from some very basic beginnings. On the flipside, the more ambitious ‘Open Forrest’, ‘Won’t Return’ and ‘This Is The Lie’ just sound too much alike each other and even given repeat listens, it’s hard to tell each burst of six-string twiddling apart as unique pieces of songwriting. The aforementioned Saviours have travelled through a range of metallic styles across their suite of records to date, but are perhaps still best known for their psyche-doom debut ‘Into Abaddon’, and The Moth’s guitar attack, niggling half-solos and tonal motifs sit incredibly close to this template, particularly toward the close of ‘This Is The Lie’.
Vocals-wise, The Moth manage to be more creative. Harnessing the contrast of Mohrdeik’s raspy growls and Ash’s silky-sweet, melodic undertones, the power trio come across at times like a cross between Tweak Bird and Saint Vitus, or a calmer take on some of Kylesa’s ballsier moments. Describing their music themselves as “virtually void of frills” and “no nonsense” however, the threesome fail to capitalise on their vocal juxtapositions on ‘They Fall’ which just repeats the same “behind the wall… they fall” lyric until you beg the song to move on. Likewise, the speedier chug of ‘The New Speed’ makes it all too clear that “this is the new speed” before jamming away at the same riff the entire album has been built on… just a little bit faster.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a great love of The Chug and all that it stands for, including its rightful place at the heart of stoner metal. That said, there’s simply more to this genre and to music than over-cooking the life out of a mid-paced riffing pattern and my gut tells me that although ‘They Fall’ is a solid, chest-thrusting album, The Moth need to act fast to introduce new ideas and enough variation to keep listener interest thriving throughout their future records. Having played with the likes of Jucifer, Black Tusk and Fight Amp already, it’s clear that The Moth mean business on the German live scene and I wish them all the very best of luck as they blast forwards. Variation is the key, The Chug must come second.
Scribed by: Pete Green