MothFormed in Stockholm back in 2008 by two musicians who used music as a way of therapeutic release and expression to deal with sorrow and tragedy, likening it to moths gathering to a light source, the two soon became three and started making waves in the European doom and sludge scene. Now, seven years on from their formation, The Moth Gatherer return with their second full length album, “The Earth Is The Sky”. Let’s follow the light and see what happens.

This is an intense album. It took several listens through just to get to grips with it. Ominous, slow, relentless, pounding and that is just the first sixty seconds of the opening track “Pale Explosions”. The raw and harsh growled vocal shouts, similar to Scandinavian compatriots Kongh in the verse is rather terrifying but when it comes into the chorus, the clean singing is both daunting and melodically beautiful as the slow harsh dissonant rhythm pulses under the melodic, slightly lazy feel vocals and surreal synth noises backing it up. This dynamic switching between thunderously intense and hauntingly melodic persists throughout the track, never quite letting you settle, picking you up off the floor, only to smash you down again without mercy. The instrumental voicings and phrasings come across as a heavier version of German psych-doom outfit My Sleeping Karma, and this is a great introduction to the album.

The intrigue generated by the first track is not lost. “Attacus Atlas” opens with a howl of feedback into some meaty, massive sounding riffs which just scream Neurosis but the dynamic changes again, going from harsh to calmer brings back that haunting feeling with a rich bass tone and quirky effects accompanying the ominous progression. Much like the previous track, it keeps this unsettling theme up, switching when you least expect it to keep you on guard, even speeding up for some portions in the intensely heavy sections before it switches to a hypnotic clean section to end.

From here, the album just loses its momentum in my view. “Prolong The Descent Of Man” and “Dyatlov Pass” are both instrumental tracks which are both slow builders and create vastly different soundscapes with their approaches. ‘Prolong’ starts out well with a seamless synth based transition from the previous track which gradually builds up in volume and intensity to give a massive sounding heavy track whilst ‘Dyatlov’ is more gothic and industrial in its stylings, favouring a spaced out feeling with a steady pulse to it, looking to create a sense of grandeur. Despite both tracks being a reprieve from the intensity of the first two tracks, it loses the momentum they had built up, removing the edge it had initially.

“Black Antlers” brings it back with a heavily fuzzed out riff which descends into an entropic groove before slowing and slipping into a drum and synth based section. With haunting vocals, delivered with a hoarse rasp and a malicious intent in the sound, it really creates an ominous vibe before the chorus comes in which strangely enough sounds like something Aphex Twin would come up with. Shifting from distorted and disjointed atonal sounds to wild, intense and animalistic with no fuss, it starts to build the momentum it lost with the instrumentals and the tremendous death metal styled vocal roar really kicks it to life at the end. “In Awe Before The Rapture” takes that momentum and loses it again. Taking too long to start with a tension building atmospheric, sample laden intro, it isn’t up until 5 minutes into the track when it finally gets going. Yes, I’m a fan of long winded proggy stuff, but this does take the piss a little! Needless to say, when it finally shifts its arse into gear, it’s a heavy and intense instrumental track to close the album – a slow crushing wall of noise with an almost suffocating feel to it, in a way, a bold but anti-climatic way to end the album.

Initially, “The Earth Is The Sky” had so much promise to begin with, but it just slipped when it was going well. It’s huge sound and intensity do work in its favour, but the disjointed feel and lack of flow in parts, along with it being a 50/50 of ‘normal’ to instrumental just seems like they were going for style rather than substance. It might sound the part at first, but don’t let it fool you… Still, those first two tracks are worth hearing.

(6/10 Fraggle)