Concrete & Pain: Inside the Agonising Sludge of Moloch

Anyone who’s ever heard His Hero Is Gone’s ‘The End Result of 11 Days in the Mental Hospital’ or Cursed’s ‘Model Home Invasion’ knows that more often than not punks can beat doom bands at their own game. Combining doom’s long-form punishment, sludge’s self-immolating riffs and hardcore’s throat-punching nihilism, Nottingham sludge metal OGs Moloch are a case in point. Birthed from East Midlands hardcore, Moloch are a consciously punishing and unrelenting beast, stripping the groove out of classic NOLA sludge and utilising the kind of dissonance and negative space perfected by Burning Witch to come up with a unique take on the genre that’s more existential hangover than dope high.

Active since 2007, Moloch have a slew of split releases under their belts, but their new LP A Bad Place marks their first full-length album since 2011’s Possession. Compromising of six full-bodied tracks, with only two coming in under seven minutes, A Bad Place takes its time to crawl around inside damaged psyches and 21st-century alienation, with slow-paced but taut arrangements gradually turning the screw to inflict maximum agony. With brilliant production that’s simultaneously lead-heavy and note clear, A Bad Place turns a painfully bright and unflinching light on human failure.

Ahead of their December gigs with Canada’s Vile Creature, we caught up with Moloch to talk about mental illness, musical friendships and the enduring power of ’90s sludge and powerviolence.

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A Bad Place is your most recent full-length release after a series of split EPs. Can you tell us about the creative process for the new album and if/how your collaborations with other bands fed into that?

The creative process is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. Writing in Moloch tends to be a continuous fluid process that is constantly moving. If by collaborations you mean split releases… they didn’t feed into the new record. We just write a bunch of songs and then decide what to do with them, although we have a handful of songs from the recording session for the LP that will make their way onto future split releases. I like the idea of releasing split records and building up bonds and friendships. Creating and growing these relationships with like-minded people is important. Certainly more important than image, column inches, money.

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The album and its artwork reference Steve McQueen’s 2011 film Shame. Is the film’s theme of inescapable personal anguish something that fed into the lyrics for the album?

Yes definitely – we are heavily influenced by cinema/film and especially the feelings that they create. Shame, in particular, portrays a certain atmosphere that we wanted to mirror on the LP. The lyrical themes are not so much in line with the themes within the film itself, but do focus on personal anguish and certain scenes/dialogue definitely resonate along with the lyrics and provided inspiration.

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Going back to collaborations, how has your close relationship with Thou as touring and writing partners influenced you personally and musically?

I think Thou have made an impact on us, personally. It’s definitely refreshing to connect with people on that level, especially within metal-sounding bands. Their music is delivered with no ego, no delusions of grandeur, no forced image. which is something that we try to adhere to.

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Having been active since 2007, what changes have you witnessed in underground heavy music in the UK? Are there are bands or venues that aren’t around anymore that meant a lot to you?

Loads of bands and venues. The list is endless but things change, people change, they get old, have families, move etc. etc. Personally, bands like Army Of Flying Robots, Braindead, Hard To Swallow, Iron Monkey, Mob Rules, Narcosis will always hold an important place for me. I went to some of my all-time favourite gigs at the Old Angel (Notts), The IQ (Boston), the Lurking Hole (Notts) which are all now dead. People seem to be taking music much more seriously. There seems to be many more bands these days but that may be down to the growth of social media increasing awareness and providing a platform. I feel that it’s much more vacuous now with band logos and promo photos taking priority over say getting a demo out and playing gigs.

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What part has the DIY music community in Nottingham, centred around Stuck On A Name (SOAN) studios, played in Moloch’s progress so far? Are your members involved more widely in the scene in other bands, producing, promotion etc.?

Stuck on a Name is a great space/studio. It’s where we practice and Boulty [Ian Boult] recorded much of our previous output and always does a good job. Many local bands owe a lot to him and SOAN. We are all involved in other stuff… Henry [drums] and Steve [guitars] are in Bloody Head, I run Feast of Tentacles, Steve illustrates Rum Lad zine, Henry also does Monoliths and a noise/drone project called Nacht Und Nebel, as well as helping out with Rammel Club and other gigs.

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What were your musical influences when you first started the band and have they changed over time?

Initially, we drew influence from bands like Eyehategod, Iron Monkey, Leechmilk, Molehill, Noothgrush, Grief, Dystopia, Corrupted, Unsane, and ’90s powerviolence bands. Although we still love these bands, as time has gone on we’ve tended not to look to other bands for musical inspiration. I guess we have tried to steer away from the stoner/metal scene and sound. I have always liked to think that we have much more in common with hardcore/punk and we have always felt more at home playing HC/punk gigs. Powerviolence/sludge splits from the ’90s always hit home for me like – Corrupted/Enemy Soil, Noothgrush/Gasp etc.

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What kind of non-musical influences (literature, film, politics etc.) do you incorporate into Moloch’s music? Do your day-to-day lives influence the band or is your focus on wider existential/philosophical questions?

Moloch isn’t a political band. I draw influence from daily life and daily struggles. For me personally, I use Moloch as an outlet for battles with depression, anxiety and depersonalisation. Sometimes these personal influences overlap with wider questions on humanity, capitalism, narcissism and existence. Film has a huge influence. As I mentioned before it’s not so much by topical content as creating atmosphere. We feel that the oppressive feel, sadness and brutality of films such as Shame, Possession and Kill List partner with what we try and achieve sonically. Plus I am a sucker for a good movie sample!

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What are your plans for releasing A Bad Place and do you have any future releases or tours lined up?

A Bad Place was released on October 20th, Feast of Tentacles is dealing with UK/Europe and Howling Mine (Bryan from Thou) is dealing with the US side of things. We’ve got a few gigs with Vile Creature lined up and a weekender in December. We have two tours lined up for next year with some friends in Europe and UK. These aren’t finalised yet but hopefully we can make the dates work. As for releases, there will be another slew of split releases and our own 7” is lined up next and will hopefully be out early next year.
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A Bad Place is out now on Feast Of Tentacles. Purchase here.

Words: Andrew Day

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