Black Moth, Venus, Sky Valley Mistress
Date: 6th December 2019
There’s a tinge of sadness in the air as Black Moth are ‘hanging up their wings.’ The Leeds/London group have been one of the shining lights amongst the metal fraternity for most of the past decade. Claiming that they had said what they wanted to say, Black Moth couldn’t step away without one last blow out.
In Leeds, they put together a killer bill for their final hometown hurrah. In a somewhat symbolic passing of the torch, recent New Heavy Sounds (Black Moth’s label) Sky Valley Mistress were invited, as were Leeds group, Venus.
Every single member of every single band, every member of the respected crews, and every member of the crowd and the venue added to a completely and utterly triumphant celebration of rock and roll.
Sky Valley Mistress have been grafting for years in and around their native Lancashire. A couple of superb EPs and several singles have helped grow their reputation as one of the best unsigned rock bands on the circuit. With new momentum in their sails from recently signing to New Heavy Sounds, this formidable quartet blasted through half an hour of a shrift set that showed exactly why their reputation precedes them.
Bassist Russell “Russell” Russell has the word ‘VICIOUS’ inscribed on his bass guitar; the way he drives the band is nothing short of. Cutting shapes that are full of punky attitude and rumbling tones that mesh with the drums create a thrilling noise. Glam rock (added to by the drummer’s attire), desert rock, stoner rock and groove metal are all boxes that you could place different aspects of the bands sound into, however as Kayley “Hell Kitten” Davies remarks…”We are Sky Valley Mistress…and we play rock and roll.” When you have this much attitude, charisma and ability, stating the obvious is all you need to do.
Sky Valley Mistress are going to be an absolute hit on NHS records. We will certainly be watching out for their new album and 2020 could be the year that we hear a lot more from this wonderful band. The crowd lapped up every note from the band and undoubtedly made some new friends whilst kicking off the celebrations.
If Sky Valley Mistress brought the attitude, Venus brought the conscience (along with the attitude). The quintet were clearly preaching to the converted as much of the crowd were on fire for this hometown show.
Grace Kelly has a great presence as the singer of the band; her introductions to the band’s songs show clearly that this band have a got a social conscience and will be banging the drum for many a good cause. Commentary on mental health, being a woman in the music industry and smashing gender genres, all raise cheers from the crowd.
In Gabby Cooke, they have a drummer who takes no prisoners in delivering blistering rhythms. Like Sky Valley Mistress, the rhythm section is complimented with the driving bass of Hannah Barraclough. The lead guitar of Jess Ayres and Grace Kelly’s rhythm guitar add a huge grunge element to the bands’ sound. They make a pounding noise. Grace Stubbings tops the sound with synthy swirls; it’s a great mix that the crowd firmly laps up.
The slow pulse of Freaky Friday, the heavy Deranged and punchy Sour are all songs that make up the band’s short discography, but each and every song the band imparts on the crowd makes an impression. If 2020 is going to see Sky Valley Mistress get their just rewards for years of graft, it is also going to be a year to keep an eye on Venus. With comments made about festivals having a gender bias in recent weeks, this band is one that can buck that trend. Venus are exciting and have something to say; make sure you listen and take note.
Sky Valley Mistress and Venus were the perfect foil for Black Moth; getting everyone warmed up and ears slightly ringing however it was clear in no time at all why Black Moth have been lauded so much in the last few years.
Instant riff satisfaction and a groove so infectious that it’s hard not to bob your head harder and harder as their songs penetrate the mind. On this night, in this city, with these songs, Black Moth were never going to anything other than spectacular…and they were. Resoundingly.
A clutch of songs from each of the band’s trio of albums and an airing of their 7″ single, Tree Of Woe, made up a celebratory setlist that was punctuated with plenty of audience patter from the evergreen Harriet Hyde.
Hyde was clearly working hard to hold things together as this was very much an emotionally charged evening. “I’m ok… I’m ok,” she says after only two or three songs. “I’ll try my best not to cry!'”
The evolution of the band is clear to see in their sound. Faster paced numbers adorn much of the band’s material from Killing Jar, whereas the slower tempo’d doomier/stoner side of the band’s hard rock sound emblazons the motifs from Condemned To Hope and Anatomical Venus.
It was truly superb to hear Spit Out Your Teeth, Banished But Blameless and Honey Lung from Killing Jar. It’s seven years since the band’s debut album hit us, and it still feels like yesterday; another reason why it’s so sad the band have called time on their career.
Condemned To Hope was the band’s second effort, and in my opinion, their finest. The artwork from Roger Dean is immense and the songs just ooze class. Tumbleweave, Undead King Of Rock & Roll and a monstrous rendition of Looner are greeted like old friends. The latter sees The Brudenell awash with balloons being batted by the fervent crowd.
With Anatomical Venus, it seemed that Black Moth were getting set for a storied career as their sound got stronger. It was a statement from the band on many issues. Moonbow, Istra and Sisters Of The Stone (dedicated by Hyde to her mum who was present) all chug, prowl and slay in unique fashion.
“This is our last song, Leeds,” announce the band. As the final strains of Honey Lung rang out, you could clearly see the emotion emanating from the stage. Hyde took a huge deep breath as she walked off the stage; taking in and soaking up the adulation.
If we were in any doubt that we were in Yorkshire, there was no conjecture by the end of the night as the band returned with a flag of the white rose draped around their shoulders.
Pig Man is one of the absolute best Black Moth songs. The lyrics are razor-sharp, but it’s the delivery of said lyrics that make the song. It’s snarling, aggressive, sharp and edgy. This unholy mix will be missed so much. The bond between the band and the crowd is clear as there are plenty of handshakes between the two.
To bring down the metaphorical curtain in their hometown, the band dusted off Blackbirds Fall one more time. A loving embrace between the band on stage at the end of the song was lump in the throat fodder. Everyone in the crowd knew that they had just witnessed one of the UK’s unsung bands of the decade put on the show of their lives. This explosive performance from the band which will cement their legacy with everyone that attended the show.
Black Moth, we salute you.
Thank you for the music.
You’ve been absolutely brilliant.
We raise our horns of doom to you.
Photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s work on the At The Barrier Facebook page.