Black Moon Mother – Illusions Under the Sun Review

Metal, as a genre, is not sexy. Obsessed as it is with the ugly, the decaying, the putrid, and the dead, it simply does not lend itself to explorations of the more sultry side of the human condition. But of all the sub-genres within metal that potentially lend themselves to sensuality and sultriness, doom is unquestionably the most eligible. The thick, smoky bass; the languid riffs; the patient build towards a visceral climax – these all seem tailor-made for a dark exploration of human desire. Yet, for the most part, doom bands remain fairly asexual, or they zero in on the disturbing and the grotesque. But just as trip-hop artists discovered that gorgeous female vocals and a slower groove added a whole new dimension to their art (think Shara Nelson or Elizabeth Fraser’s contributions to Massive Attack, or Martina Topley-Bird to Tricky), doom bands are realizing the same thing. Enter Nashville’s Black Moon Mother, a group that you can imagine listening to in a smoky bar with a whiskey, rather than a dingy club with a moshpit. Playing a combination of dense doom, shoegaze, indie rock and even trip-hop, Illusions Under the Sun is their debut album. While certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, this is a notable debut, forged on the back of a compelling live show and a willingness to bend some of metal’s sacred rules.

I suppose the one-line pitch of Black Moon Mother would be: Windhand employs Chelsea Wolfe just after everyone has got laid, taken some psychedelics and listened to Morcheeba’s Big Calm in a hazy, post-coital state. The major success of Illusions Under the Sun is just how successfully these varying influences are melded and shaped. From the dense Chelsea Wolfe-esque “Lost in a Maze” to the psych-rock “Around the Finger,” to the thick, toe-tapping “Radiant Sun,” Black Moon Mother adroitly jumps between different styles to create an album of unique, interesting tracks. Even more impressive is how the disparate elements are juxtaposed within individual songs to eke out maximum emotional impact. The aforementioned “Around the Finger” starts as a breezy indie number, before jumping to elegant, shimmering shoegaze and ending with dense crushing doom. Could have been a disaster, works a charm. While the songs are not compositionally complicated, the band compensates for this by relying on shimmering beauty and smoldering tension to maintain interest. It all pays off handsomely.


The performances are all excellent, with a pleasing emphasis on the bass, and guitar work that confidently handles both the quick-sand dense doom and the lighter, evanescent passages with equal aplomb. The real star of Black Moon Mother, though, is singer Brianne O’Neill, who manages to sound confident, fragile, devastating and sensuous, often within the same song. She elevates the material and the mix emphasizes both her voice and the hazy atmosphere, creating the languorous tension promised by the hypnotic album cover.

It’s certainly not perfect, however. While the different tracks are all confidently handled, there is a feeling that Black Moon Mother are still discovering their true sound. No single cut is representative of the album as a whole, and it feels like a lot of experimentation and tinkering is still going on. This means that Illusions Under the Sun is occasionally slightly incohesive. This is unsurprising for a debut, but it is noticeable after a few listens. At 30 minutes, it also feels a touch on the lighter side, and could have been beefed up with an extra track or two.

Illusions Under the Sun is a strange and beautiful album that exists somewhere between doom metal and indie. There are die-hards from both camps who will probably reject it, but don’t listen to the nay-sayers: this is an incredibly promising and interesting debut. The sound is not settled yet, the tracks don’t always flow logically, and it’s a touch on the light side from a content perspective, but Black Moon Mother has created a fascinating hybrid that shows just how damn smooth and sensuous metal can be. This one goes down easier than single malt whiskey and a cigar on a comfy chair after a long day. How often can you say that about the other bands we review on this site?

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Petrichor Records
Websites:  |
Releases Worldwide: June 4th, 2021

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