Black Moth, Grave Lines and Famous David – 12th February 2018 – Newcastle Cluny

Review by Neil Ainger

Little is known of opening band Famous David and for good reason, as tonight was their first ever gig. Warming up a crowd light in numbers on a cold Monday night is no easy task and Famous David seemed to embrace the opportunity. It’s hard to define their set in terms of a genre as the band dipped in and out of post-punk, garage and psychedelic rock at will. Being hard to define is not a slight or a negative for any band and identity will surely come with experience. The band brought their set to a close amid a boiling heavy psych haze that sent me back to the bar with a little less of a feeling of the Monday blues. The fact that I found at the bar a tap takeover from Magic Rock only helped alleviate it further.

“Isn’t that the guy from Sea Bastard?” my friend asked as London/Brighton based Grave Lines took to the stage. I assured him it wasn’t, confident I was right. Guitarist Oli doesn’t exactly blend into a crowd and their appearance at Byker Grave festival at The Globe may have been almost four years ago but given we took our place directly in front of him with nobody to obstruct our view I think I’d remember that. Well, my hideously troublesome memory has beaten me once more as a quick search the next day has well and truly proven me wrong. Despite being a fan of Sea Bastard’s miserable brand of doom for some time, Grave Lines were new to me and how I wish I had been aware of them before now.

Their support set consisted of three tracks (albeit long ones), two of which were from their forthcoming LP entitled Fed Into The Nihilist Engine and as the gentle, almost slowcore-like opening notes in the first tracks leisurely and lengthy opening few minutes build in to an epic, aggressive and hypnotic fury I was immediately enamoured with it. Jake’s vocals range from mournful and melancholic to vigorous and forceful and the mood can suddenly change at any given moment, never offering the listener an opportunity to become comfortable and disengaged, never wavering in its intensity. Between the frantic and at times obscure guitar work, the remarkable vocals, Matt’s irate bass playing which only helps to add a further weighty dimension to the misanthropic murk, and Julia’s precision drumming, often seemingly playing as if she were independent to the rest of the band whilst simultaneously holding every single piece of the band’s sound together like a strong glue, Grave Lines are truly transfixing and immobilising and I urge anyone with an interest in doom and sludge to listen to the album when it is released. There is just no way it isn’t going to be something very special.

Fair play to Black Moth for welcoming such a strong band on tour with them because they really were a tricky act to follow. Black Moth, luckily, are no slouches. Their nine-date UK tour taking place to promote the band’s latest release Anatomical Venus, offers fans their first taste of the new material. The new album, they claim, will be their heaviest offering to date and tracks like Moonbow, with it’s psychedelic and garage rock influences, are played loud and at pace. It’s been about five years since I last saw Black Moth live and in those five years the band have been hard at work, releasing 2 full-length albums and sharing stages with the likes of Orange Goblin, Karma to Burn, Monster Magnet, Pentagram, L7 and Sisters of Mercy! The result is that Black Moth appear to operate like a well-oiled machine. Prepared and refined the band ooze positivity and are prepared with between-track quips and laughter.

Vocalist Harriet Hyde’s voice is authoritative and inviting and she has the presence on stage to match, dedicating new track Sisters of the Stone to her guitarist Federica as well as strong female role models the world over. It’s difficult not to engage with the band’s affable nature and they sound terrific. The dual guitars pinch and bite and the vocals ease their way through the mix with little to no resistance. Tracks like Tumbleweave, and especially Looner, from 2014s Condemned to Hate, sound somewhat more vicious on the live stage, Blackbirds Fall from the band’s first record, 2012s The Killing Jar, is every bit the slick, well-rehearsed crowd pleaser it should be and the new material is sounding fresh and full of promise. Some of the more untamed instrumental sections suggest that the claim to be heavier than ever may just prove to be true. There may be no shortage of a certain kind of female-fronted stoner metal and if that’s your thing there are plenty of bands out there to choose from. If Black Moth are going to ensure that they set themselves apart, it will be in the range of influences they bring to the table and a desire to continue moving forward. At the point of writing this I am yet to hear their latest release, but if this glimpse into Anatomical Venus is anything to go by then that may just be exactly what they have done.

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