After releasing two acclaimed records, the pressure is on for Black Moth to deliver the goods on album number three, Anatomical Venus. It’s also their first release with new guitarist Federica Gialanza (formerly of an all-female Sabbath tribute band) and also their first for new label Candlelight Records. By all accounts, the band are bringing out the big guns; this time around they’ve worked with producers who have worked with a wide variety of bands such as Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir and even indiepop outfit Maximo Park.
Thankfully there’s no trace of that here; Anatomical Venus was inspired by medical models from the eighteenth century used to teach about the body, specifically the female body. The band’s singer, Harriet Hyde, had this to say about the models: “The Anatomical Venus spoke volumes to me. She embodies the male gaze, a history of men dissecting women in an attempt to understand her, reveal her magic, snuff out her unruly flame, while all the time needing her to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing to their taste. These models are not simply practical medical models for education – they are fetish objects, women stripped back as far as you can go. But there is a look of defiance in their eyes as if to say, ‘keep looking if you like. I dare you. Peel back my skin and peep behind my ribcage, you won’t find anything unless I choose to tell you’.”
These themes of femininity and objectification are underpinned by a take on stoner doom that draws as much from 90s grunge as it does from Sabbath-y doom or Kyuss’ sandblasted rock. It’s their heaviest outing to date, a far more kaleidoscopic affair that packs in a huge amount of bluesy, doomy riffs, ethereal and haunting vocal hooks and attitude in spades. Opener ‘Istra’ invokes the goddess of beauty Aphrodite amongst the haze and soaring vocal melodies; followup ‘Moonbow’ has a very Iommi-esque riff that winds back and forth across the song. The Sabbath worship is none more apparent than here and midpoint ‘Severed Grace’ that also features a serpentine melody in its haunting chorus that towers above the riffs. The grungier elements come into their own across the album too, including the chorus to ‘Screen Queens’ and the rousing ‘Buried Hoards’ that showcases an ability to write shorter songs without pulling punches.
Vocalist Harriet Hyde is undeniably a focal point for the album; her mid-register siren song ensnares and entrances all, both ethereal and powerful. That isn’t to say the rest of the band aren’t just as talented; guitars courtesy of Federica and Jim Swainston are equally bluesy and heavy, recalling not only the obvious Sabbath but also Clutch in their ability to be simultaneously catchy and sleazy, filtered through the desert heat. Bassist Dave Vachon and sticksman Dom McCready underpin the band with titanic heft, pinning the meandering riffs and vocals with ease. Production is clear and crisp without sacrificing any of the heady, hazy atmosphere conjured throughout. Unfortunately some songs do fall short of the bar Black Moth have set so ludicrously high for themselves and meander over much, such as opener ‘Istra’ and later on ‘Tournaline’ but this happens very rarely.
The spectre of the events of 2017 loom large over Anatomical Venus, and it stands as a timely rumination on femininity, sexism and objectification that tells itself through the lens of these eighteenth-century medical teaching aids. More than that, it’s also their best work to date and a damn fine release that artfully combines all its disparate influences to form something far greater than the sum of its parts.