Brighton’s Hot Moth create a sound that’s a bit like experiencing an aural collision between the crunchy but song-driven aspects of the much missed Oceansize and the cerebral, clankier elements of cult heroes The Fierce And The Dead. The three songs on their 2016 EP ‘Small Fires’ aim for the gut as much as the head and combined create a fine, if far too short, voyage into arty mathrock territory.
Knowing that first impressions are all important, the band kick off with their weightiest track, the suitably named ‘Rhino’, a brilliant tune that opens in killer power trio style, as Matt Metcalf works a grubby guitar riff. It’s instantly clear that, musically speaking, these guys gel. While it would be so easy for them to run with this riff a little longer than they actually do, in proper proggy tradition, they’re keen to show off other musical traits within a short space of time. And so, a switch is made, first to slightly lighter alt-rock chops, helped by ringing guitar work backed a huge drum roll from Fred Hills, before shifting back to that original riff and then into a surprisingly melodic chorus. It’s with the chorus everything seems to come together, as Matt Sparkes’s voice projects itself with a soaring and melodic cry, For those keen to hear more of the Fierce And The Dead-isms from the intro, a brilliant instrumental break is more than happy to oblige – first via a few chunky chords with very impressive stops and then by attacking with a huge, heavy riff. This number has just enough of everything to attract various ears – heaviness, progginess and some strong song writing chops. It promises more goodness to follow.
While one or two hints from that track seem to recur during ‘Levelling The Lost’, there’s a greater focus on melody all round. Presenting a chorus hook that’s more reliant on harmonies and a verse that has a little more room for manoeuvre, everyone sounds very much at ease. The hard and punchy bass sound is superb, often complimenting the lead vocal parts during quieter moments, while the big riffs that drive the heavy sections are just spot on. The nods to jazz fusion in the lead guitar work and a brief foray into funk rock helps to give a much broader canvas until the track’s second half, where everything changes tack completely and hammers out a hard and groovy riff that’s tuneful and not too flashy. Here, once again, Hot Moth really demonstrate the importance of accessibility when it comes to the potentially arty. Best of all, ‘I Missed The Missed’ scales back some of the heavy guitars and allows the rhythm section to do some serious work. Beginning with a clean guitar, this track immediately stands out and the brief heavy riff which quickly moves things forward provides more of a link with the other tracks. This is good, but what transpires during the verse is great. The warm bass and percussive drum sounds that carry that verse aren’t so much of the alt-rock or prog-metal school but rather more eighties in spirit; the playing, reminiscent of some of the Rush material from ‘Permanent Waves’, brings a more classic slant to the table. Obviously, this isn’t just a good thing – for some people, it’ll be what really sets Hot Moth apart from some of their mathrock peers. It’s an almost perfect sound, warm and inviting, as well-rounded bass notes fill space above some quirky percussive flourishes. For the briefest of moments, there’s a feeling that this could become ‘Mystic Rhythms’ and then the vocal comes in, bringing us back to earth. Sparkes is in good voice and in the moments before the chorus adds a few heavier touches, it’s clear that this is something special. As before, the heavier moments have more flair and melody than most progressive metal bands could ever hope to muster. Without doubt, this is one of the best tracks to emerge in 2016.
This EP is superb. Ir’s an angular and sometimes quirky affair that comes highly recommended for listeners who love techy things but still want actual songs to take precedence. The punchy production brings out the best in the guitar sound throughout, while the nods to Rush lurking beneath the more modern alt-rock elements of their sound just makes everything even better. Strong melodies and stronger playing delivered with a genuinely emotive feel – and a decent singer to boot – this has everything you’d hope for from a proggy band. Where so many come up a little short, Hot Moth really shine. Wonderful stuff, indeed.