Black Moth‘s new album The Killing Jar is the rare metal record with hardly any guitar solos. It’s also the rare metal album that doesn’t have some cheesy or buffoonish element. Nick Cave percussionist Jim Sclavunos’ production surrounds the band’s diabolically catchy post-Sabbath riffage with echoey, atmospheric sonics that enhance the songs’ relentless chromatic menace. The rhythm section has plutonium weight, Dave Vachon’s downtuned bass paired with Dom McCready’s lead-bullet drums that hold the beast to the rails without cluttering the songs. Likewise, frontwoman Harriet Bevan sings with a direct, clear delivery that’s all the more disturbingly believable because she stays within herself instead of getting all cartoonish like so many other metal singers. The songs here are relatively short, maintaining a macabre mood rather than shooting for epic length, the longest one clocking in at just over five minutes.
There actually are a few genuine guitar solos on this album: a twin solo between axemeisters Jim Swainston and Nico Carew on the catchy, unexpectedly lighthearted opening track, The Articulate Dead that goes in a bluesmetal direction, and and a deliciously noisy, all too brief bit of chord-chopping on the way out of Land of the Sky, which takes an oldschool stoner groove and gives it a kick in the ass.
“Feel your body run through the trees and then you’ll get your release,” Bevan intones coldly over the bludgeoning, apocalyptically vamping Blackbirds Fall. Banished But Blameless sets a vengeful revolutionary cry – “Ablata y alba!” – over dynamically shifting horror riffage, with a brief detour into death metal. Spit Out Your Teeth – which might be a zombie love song, go figure – goes from a careening sway to one of those classic, hammerheaded Sabbath riffs on the bridge and then into a fullscale gallop.
It’s not clear what The Plague of Our Age is, but it’s deadly for certain, that point driven home with a sarcastic chorus of backing vocals. One of the most pissed-off tracks is Chicken Shit, which goes from four-on-the-floor into a surprisingly effective, tricky, proggy rhythm. Maybe to be true to the title, Blind Faith works a swaying, darkly bluesy early 70s vibe but with denser production. Plastic Blaze mingles allusions to both mid-80s Iron Maiden and the Vice Squad’s apocalyptic classic Last Rockers amid burning, multitracked sci-fi effects; the album’s closing cut, Honey Lung, has a distatntly Middle Eastern flavor and might be about smoking hash. There isn’t a single bad song on this album: definitely one of the best of 2013.