This review comes later than hoped due to a plant fuck up that meant I had to wait for ages to actually get my LP back. As such this mightn’t be exactly up to date but being a fan(boy) of Moss I can hardly pass up the opportunity to add my tuppence to the piles of reviews already out there.
Their history is long and a bit complicated so I think a bit of context is needed to set the scene.
Stretching back over a decade this drugged-out and down-beat trio have amassed a respectable catalogue of releases ranging from their earliest and most primitive demos to the highly revised incarnation we a presented with today.
Ten years ago the Doom scene was undergoing something of a renaissance with the likes of Reverend Bizarre heralding a new era of Black Sabbath worship while the even deeper underground was stretching the form into even darker and more fucked up forms than had probably been seen. The likes of Sunn O))), Bunkur and indeed Moss were taking the low and slow approach to its logical conclusions.
It was an exciting time to poke into the Doom undergrowth with festering ugly gems popping up with as much regularity as epic, powerful traditionally minded ones.
With Moss dipping their toes into noise pools as well as dragging riffs and song lengths out to ridiculous proportions they managed to muster up one of the most despicable debut releases that sounds as devastatingly bleak and heavy today as it did upon its release, and acted as a full-stop to what was being termed Extreme Doom at that time.
‘Cthonic Rites’ remains unmatched within the darkest corners of Doom’s haunted corridors, a fact proved by the band themselves with the release of its follow up, ‘Sub Templum’. Sure it had its moments but ultimately it dragged, the band seeming a little bit at a loss as to how to follow up such a monumental debut, and who could blame them.
The subsequently released EPs, ‘Tombs of the Blind Drugged’ and ‘Eternal Return’, then came as something of a surprise. It showed a band reinvigorated, re-focused and most importantly, artistically renewed.
By cutting the song lengths from half an hour down to more manageable bite-sized chunks they forced themselves to focus more on the actual riffs and structures and it paid off. The band unleashed killer, catchy riff upon killer, catchy riff without betraying that cavernous, Lovecraftian sense of mystery that marked their earliest releases.
It was a simple and logical progression, in retrospect, but it paid off in spades.
Moss’s ‘Horrible Night’ (cool title!) is once again a step away from their muddy, macrocosmic approach to song-writing but those old grubby fingerprints have not been entirely wiped away.
The music here is great. It builds on the foundations of those two EPs balancing filth, low-end crush and memorability to fantastic effect. The vocals, however, are another story.
Pearson’s illegible shrieks have been traded in for, gulp, actual clean singing. I’m not really sure that the trade was a worthwhile bargain, though. His voice calls to mind a lesser Ozzy. Or even a lesser Oborne… But where is Pearson?
Oddly enough it is the two moments of harsh vocals, the end of opener ‘Horrible Night’ and the fantastic but fleeting middle section of ‘Dark Lady’ that deliver the ghoulish magic. The lyrics, too, feel a bit dumbed down in keeping with their growing 70s kitsch fascination which, sadly, feels pretty threadbare in 2013.
The idea itself is solid, though. Allow the putrid riffs and caveman drums to perpetuate that primeval pulse that the band is known for while surreptitiously creating actual songs. The main problem is that the vocals lack surprises, opting instead to mimic the riffs a lot of the time, or else just not being terribly exciting.
Ironically, in making the songs relatively more complex and involved they have lost that otherworldly aura that made them so compelling in the first place.
I’m being especially harsh as I always viewed Moss as leaders in the underground Doom scene. The switch from obscure, dim, Cthonic mysteriousness to mundane occult worshiping Electric Wizard clone puts them squarely in among a herd of the many… An unexpected regression, to be sure.
All that said, for fans of the band’s minimal is maximal approach to gnarly un-music there is enough here to enjoy and maybe those vocals will grow on me with time. I just hope that if Pearson continues down the clean singing path he develops a bit more identity and pushes himself to be more inventive with his melodies.
Here’s hoping as this is far from a write off, it’s just a bit underwhelming.
3/5- Andrew Cunningham ::: 22/08/13