moss sub templumY’know when the last time I smoked weed was? June 22nd, 2005. Not long after that I won a bid for a new job, and when I went in for my physical they mistakenly administered a drug test. When the results came back positive for marijuana the company couldn’t exactly turn the other way in light of the results, regardless of the test being completely unnecessary. So I got put on the random testing circuit and was put through “treatment.” It sucked. For about a two year period I was subjected to drug tests monthly, sometimes even more often. Even though now it’s only every now and then, I am quite aware that it’s been three years, one month and eight days since the last time I got high.

Why am I telling you this? Because the entire time I spent listening to droning doom act Moss’s second full-length Sub Templum (three times in a row!) all I wanted to do was spark up a bowl. Instead I opted for Lagavulin 16 Scotch whisky from the island of Islay. The distillery sits right on the coast and captures fresh peat moss as the waves crash against the brick structure. One of the richest flavored Scotch whiskys, you can really taste the peat and distinct iodine flavorings along with the fermented grains. It’s one of my favorites. I plowed through over half a bottle.

But back to Moss. There’s a moment about thirteen minutes into the second track of Sub Templum, where the sludgy guitar sustains a chord until it nearly falls completely silent. For a number of minutes the agonizingly slow tempo is metered out with a cymbal that resembles – possibly represents – a distant church bell filtered through a thick, black ichor. Just as it seems the song is about to fade out vocalist Olly Pearson lets out a bloodcurdling scream that propels the song forward with a renewed strength that keeps it lumbering onward for another ten minutes. “Subterrean” is over twenty-three minutes in length and it isn’t even the longest track on the album.

Welcome to the dense, murky world of Southampton, UK’s Moss, an act formed back in 2001 that has released many split EPs and demos but recently dropped only its second full-length album, the successor to 2005’s Cthonic Rites. The reason for the dearth of recorded material is that the act has always been more concerned with developing both its core sound and involving songs before presenting them in a professional, long play capacity. The band are a thoughtful trio consisting of guitar, percussion and vocals, and while there’s no bassist one can certainly pick up on deep, inexplicably low frequencies incorporated into the mix. Heavily influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, the occult, horror movies and…uhhh, weed, their music is similar to that of Sunn o))) though a bit more traditional in its approach, utilizing a constant, if tremendously down-tempo, percussive rhythm structure. Realize before you dive in headlong that this is impossibly slow, drawn out and terrifying music that has more in common with ambient than doom metal. It’s a style of music with a limited audience but can be introspective and rewarding in ways few other microgenres can.

“Dragged To The Roots” rends flesh and crushes bone as guitarist Dominic Finbow conjures up the Other Gods through dense, cyclical riffs which bring to mind ritual reverence and mystical horror. “Gate III: Devils From The Outer Dark” takes up nearly half the album and is split into three parts; “Walpurgis,” “The Coming Of 13” and “Exitus Templum,” though you’ll be hard pressed to tell when each specific movement begins as there aren’t really clear breaks. By the time it finishes you feel as though you’ve aged at least a century and borne witness to the rise of a hellish apocalypse.

Coming across as literate, crushingly uncompromising and undeniably powerful Moss has managed to put together an ominous ode to the futility of our terminally weak species and its ultimate enslavement and destruction by a more dominant and insidious force. Returning producer Jus Oborn of the phenomenal doom
band Electric Wizard adds just the right touches to the act’s sound, building upon their power without glossing over the raw edges. This band is like a beast from the fetid depths of the Earth’s core returning after centuries of slumber to easily vanquish your delicate sensibilities, a thing that should not be but – fortunately for us – is. Sub Templum is akin to the experience of being penetrated by elongated claws which retract slowly, scraping across the top of your pelvis. I entreat you to take a stab at enduring its punishments.


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(four out of five horns)

[Moss on MySpace]

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