It’s difficult striking out into the musical mire in the Internet era. There are almost-literally limitless bands out there vying for the contents of your wallet and it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. The Moth Gatherer seem to genuinely offer something a bit different: their sophomore album The Earth is the Sky is something akin to Agalloch but with more doom and less earthy production, or Secrets of the Sky but with more post-rock tendencies. If such bands draw your attention (as they unquestionably should), then this is worth a spin. There are undoubtedly problems but the strongest aspects are excellent.
The Moth Gatherer are best when they keeps things relatively simple (though nothing they write is entirely straight-forward). The opener, “Pale Explosions,” is replete with doomy satisfaction and probably my highlight of the album. Plodding percussion and fuzzed-out guitars are draped with pretty melodies in a vaguely post-rock manner, both when breaking down with cleaner vocals and slower tempos, and when the fat guitar tones accelerate to ass-kicking gear. The second half is particularly crushing, as is that on “The Antlers.”
Similarly, other tracks which stand out frugally limit themselves to a few choice styles. Developing their post-rock qualities, “Probing the Descent of Man” is instrumental and demonstrates an admirable awareness of texture and timing as layered synths, simply-yet-satisfying percussion and heavy-yet-melodic guitar passages fluctuate through its five-minute length. Indeed, its successor, “Dyatlov Pass,” is entirely ambient and very effective. Cosmic synths overlay subtle electronic beats and lonely post-rock chords, and I enjoy it as a standalone track.
That said, I take issue with the album’s construction. These two instrumental pieces placed next to each other diminish the effect of their subtlety as they are quite different when held up together. They could both serve purpose as reprieves from the heavier material but the second after the first doesn’t fulfill this. Regarding the arrangement of The Earth is the Sky otherwise, things can get a bit too ponderous as most tracks are over-long. There’s a lot to be said for a measured approach in generating expectation for a climax, but it really does take too long on “Attacus Atlas,” “The Antlers” and “In Awe Before the Rapture.” Would a Moth-gazing pun be applicable here, or is that too esoteric even for the most ardent AMG readers?
In addition, there needs to be more work on consistency. It seems somewhat self-defeating for two of my preferred tracks on a principally doom metal release to draw heavily on ambient and subtle post-rock influences. The heavier tracks themselves are hit-and-miss. Only “Pale Explosions” is good through its entire length: “The Antlers” picks up after four and a half minutes but is average before then, and “Attacus Atlas” is entirely forgettable.
On consideration of these weaknesses I really can’t justify awarding more than a 2.5, but the good bits are very good and I enjoy The Moth Gatherer‘s core sound. The Earth is the Sky is an often-engaging fusion of doom and atmospherics let down by a number of key defects. I therefore look forward to a subsequent release since there are shining moments here.