The Killing Jar
, May 9th, 2012 05:43
The Killing Jar opens with a bold statement of intent – a gargantuan drum roll that evokes The Misfits, The Dead Kennedys and Grinderman. In fact, based solely on the intro you might be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled upon Grinderman 3. This is not mere coincidence though; the album is produced by none other than Grinderman / The Cramps / Bad Seeds drummer Jim Sclavunos and it bears his signature ability to shake charm the dirty end of rock & roll throughout. However, as soon as the vocals kick in you realize that you are on an entirely different trip. Harriet Bevan fronts the band with the hypnotic command of Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick and the chutzpah of L7's Donita Sparks. It's a compelling combination in a world that suffers from a slight dearth of ballsy frontwomen.
"I like you and you know it / you're dead but try not to show it" she coos in 'Articulate Dead'. It must be noted at this point that this is sexy, but not in a coy pandering way - Bevan controls the game. This isn't just the Harriet show though – Black Moth is a many-headed beast.
'Blackbirds Fall' starts with a riff of epic proportions that suggests guitarist Jim Swainston has studied at the Tony Iommi school of hammering it out. This is clearly indebted to Black Sabbath but it pays just reverence to the master. Shuddering and apocalyptic, it's the stand out track on the album, and blends seamlessly into the equally infectious 'Banished But Blameless'.
'Spit Out Your Teeth' dabbles in the occult with more than just a flip of the horns to Coven's Jinx Dawson. "It's strange but I feel there's something more" sings Bevan, sensing the spectral. Thematically well-timed recession pop track 'The Plague of Our Age' turns the current socio-economic balls-up into something dark and somber but rendered catchy and mesmerizing by Karen O style "ooh ooh oohs".
The album takes on a more lumbering pace for the final three songs. The sludgier rhythm is broken up when 'Plastic Blaze' suddenly changes tempo and becomes almost glam rock. 'Land of the Sky' veers off track slightly - the rappy vocals don't quite work. However they pull it back for a grand finale. 'Honey Lung' manages to be both pounding and soporific at the same time. It's an entrancing end to a white knuckle-ride.
The sound is rooted in the past and it certainly references all the touchstones of psych rock, stoner metal and grunge - something evident in track titles like 'Honey Lung' as much as the music. Yet this debt of influence never impedes the power of this album, as Black Moth take the building blocks and march boldly into new spheres. This is a thrilling and confident debut, uncompromisingly Dionysian while still maintaining a pop edge among the menace.