Thursday, September 19, 2013

Moss - Horrible Night

British doomsters Moss released their 3rd full-length album "Horrible Night" in March of this year. It took me a while to get around to it, but I finally listened to the record.

The band's previous record, "Sub Templum", is often my go-to album when illustrating the line between funeral doom and drone. It hovers right on the edge, with just enough structure and bite to still feel like doom, while sporting the kind of run-times and ultra-slow tempos that just feel excessive for anything that isn't purely background music.

Well this record is a significant change of pace for the band. Gone (for the most part) are the earlier snarling sludge vocals. Gone are the half-hour tracks. Gone is the feeling that the music is some unseen Lovecraftian horror inhabiting the blackened depths of a subterranean chasm. In place of these features we have much more straightforward British doom band. The vocals now fall into that vaguely Ozzy-esque sound that so many traditional doom bands emulate. The songs now mostly clock in at around 10 minutes (so they're still not "short", they're just not as long). And the feel of the music, while still essentially funeral doom, has moved closer to the fuzzy heaviness of surface-dwelling stoner doom bands.

Now first off, the good: this album reminds me of Electric Wizard. That statement alone should tell you all you need to know. Somehow, without the use of a bass guitar, the band has managed to achieve that crushing low end, while maintaining the fuzzy wall of feedback.

There is, however, also some bad. For one thing, the Wizard have some of the most memorable, monolithic riffs ever set down on tape. Riffs that carry you away as they grind your bones into dust. While Moss have certainly captured the right feel, they are unable to equal the riffing quality for the most part. Some songs, like the title track, definitely grab hold of you, but some songs instead just feel like filler. And when every song is the same length and tempo, those unmemorable tracks really fade into the background. The other downside is that, while I really do enjoy this record, it kind of moves into a niche that is already filled while vacating one that Moss had all to itself. They are currently left fighting with Dopethrone in the Electric Wizard Clone Wars, when before they were my go-to band for a specific sound.

While the negatives section was clearly longer than the positives, you should not take that to mean that I disliked this record. It was a very good, very enjoyable album, and I expect that I'll find myself coming back to it in the future. I do have some mixed emotions about it, as is often the case when a band you like goes through a radical style change. They haven't abandoned their funeral doom roots, they haven't sold out, and they haven't really even taken a step down. They have shifted in a more accessible direction, though, in what I would call a surprising lateral move.

In terms of recommendations, if you are a Moss fan it's worth checking out, but be warned that it's not quite what you'd normally expect. If you're an Electric Wizard fan, you'll probably enjoy this. If you just like funeral doom in general, it's a good record and you'll probably like it. And if you are new to the sub-genre and want to explore funeral doom, it's no masterpiece but it's an acceptable place to start.

Grade: B+

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