Black Moth–The Duchess, 28/09/14

After my (self)enforced exile from live music earlier this year and then a period of laziness which saw me going to very few gigs solely to experience new music, I believe I am now well and truly back in the game and I headed off to the Duchess tonight to see a band based solely on the fact that they had been mentioned in the latest issue of Prog magazine.

First to take to the stage were Push, in their words, “a newish band from York.” So new, in fact, that I can find nothing about them on the internet. They followed the same format as …And The Hangnails, but with less experience and a few more problems. The pounding drums were so loud in the mix that they practically drowned out the guitar and somewhat depressing vocals, except for the occasional screams from the drummer himself. The drums themselves were being hit so hard that said drummer spent time between songs repositioning them, while the guitarist/vocalist looked lost. Bouts of ear-piercing feedback punctuated the set, unintentionally, I’m sure and, while the music was sometimes interesting, personally I couldn’t get past the undecipherable lyrics and screams (eventually from both members). Call me old-fashioned but I like to hear a tune and some semblance of lyrics. Having said that, despite displaying a distinct lack of subtlety, this was an energetic pair, especially the drummer, who provided a raucous, impressive finale to the set with a pseudo-solo during which his sticks flew in his hands and after which those sticks flew away and across the stage. Not the best start to the evening, if I’m honest, but I didn’t particularly like …And The Hangnails the first time I saw them, either.

Watching Limb set up for their set, I noticed the large Lynyrd Skynyrd patch on vocalist Rob Hoey’s jacket and dared to hope for a little more subtlety from them. They certainly had a more traditional line-up, with Pat Pask on guitar, Sam Cooper on bass and Tim Mowforth drums. Backlit on a smoke-covered stage, they spent the majority of their set as dark, anonymous silhouettes. They opened with a rumbling, doom-laden sound before Hoey stepped up to the mic and, uh-oh, let loose with the dreaded “cookie monster” vocals and my heart sank. But, lo and behold, those vocals were used sparingly, never overpowering the music. And the music was compelling. Less new than Push, they were a lot slicker on stage and, even with the growling and barking, it was possible to pick out at least some of the lyrics. Pask and Cooper swayed along to the music, which included some nice changes of pace. By the time Blood Red River unleashed its wall of sound, I realised that I was enjoying this set more than I expected to. Limb reminded me a little of Opeth’s brand of Prog-metal (before they more or less dropped the metal). Despite very little chat, just the odd “thank you” between songs, they had a massive stage presence, with Hoey owning the stage even between vocal sections. At times it was difficult to tell whether tracks were ending or segueing into each other but there was enough variance to stop the set getting anywhere near stale. One track showed a sudden change to something less doom-laden, yet still not light, and reminded me of Sabbath’s Iron Man. Overall, it was an exhilarating, sometimes demanding, set. A smaller section of the audience seemed to appreciate it than what seemed to be the large guest list brought along by Push, but those that did had really enjoyed it, if the Anglo-Saxon expletives being bandied around were anything to go by. And yes, enjoy it I did. Not enough to buy an album as I doubt I’d play it very much, but I wouldn’t be averse to seeing Limb again.

As frontwoman Harriet Bevan joined the rest of Leeds band Black Moth onstage, she was greeted with a cheer and a surge forward. My first impression was that, visually at least, she didn’t fit in with the stoner image of the rest of the band, her sparkly gold and silver top and leather shorts more befitting a pop-star than the heavy, pounding riff of the first track. Only her large, black crucifix showed any hint of rock chick. Her vocals and actions, however… Those vocals were impressive in power if somewhat difficult to pick the lyrics out of. (In fact, it was probably easier to hear the words of Limb.) Black Moth, however, were more varied musically. The fast and furious second track made way for the slow, hypnotic opening of the third which, in turn, changed pace frequently and possibly segued into the next, during which Bevan’s powerful vocals mixed with a sultry microphone-caressing performance. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to pick out song-titles and, having no knowledge of the band prior to tonight, didn’t recognise any of the tracks. A fast and, dare I say, light track was vocally shouty and, if I heard right, a little sweary and then it was back to the heavy stoner-rock more synonymous with the rest of the set. A pounding opening was greeted by a sea of nodding heads in front of me and led into a hint of raucous psychedelia. All of this was adding up to something I wanted to hear again and, so, was disappointed when Bevan announced that they had already sold out of tour copies of Condemned To Hope, their second album. The set moved towards its blistering end via crunching and then more traditional screaming guitars, more heaviness and even a hint of Hawkwind-like space-rock but the encore eclipsed all that, starting fast and getting faster, showcasing some incredible musicianship before fading into a slower instrumental mid-section and then crashing into an epic, crowd-pleasing false-ending, with bass-player Dave Vachon encouraging the audience to applaud only for the music to burst into life again. Stirring, brilliant stuff and one of the best performances I’ve seen in York this year.

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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