Japanese doom-noise band Blacklab step onto the world stage 7/10
When it comes to terrifying things, Japan is pretty high on the list with its suicide forests, The Ring, The Grudge and now the “dark witch doom” of Blacklab. Blacklab are the pairing of Yuko Morino (guitar/vocals) and Chia Shiraishi (drums) who are now emerging into the world outside Japan with their lo-fi Sabbathy riffing courtesy of Under the Strawberry Moon 2.0.
Opener Black Moon starts off with a slow huge sound before kicking off with a groove that is 100% Black Sabbath but it’s the discordant break that grabs your attention and makes you realise this isn’t yet another cheap Sabbath clone. The sound is huge and unpolished; we’re off to an immediate winner and Morino’s vocals really hit their stride as the song goes on. This is like a supernatural version of Crowbar trapped in a well.
Hidden Garden continues to bring huge riffs and feedback, but Spoon changes into a new beast – a slower almost acoustic, lumbering menace. This is the real heart of Blacklab: atmospherics and mood, something that can be catchy but then equal parts unsettling, something that Warm Death somehow manages to ramp up further. Blacklab are clearly self aware when it comes to their sound as evident in Symptom of the Blacklab, an homage of sorts to Symptom of the Universe which then swerves off into something else.
As we get towards the end of the album, His Name Is changes things around with a much more up tempo catchy track that is doubtless has to be one of the highlights of a live show. Under the Strawberry Moon was self released by the band and this is where the original ended with Fall and Rise. While His Name Is seems like dawn breaking and the nightmare ending, Fall and Rise drags you back kicking and screaming into Blacklab’s world.
The extra track found on 2.0 is Big Muff, a piece which was originally improvised for the documentary Gui aiueo:s, which eventually led to director Go Shibata working with the band on their video for Warm Death/Black Moon which you can watch below.
Under the Strawberry Moon 2.0 is a monstrous album that is a must if you like your doom to be atmospheric and outright loud.
4 out of 5 cabins in the wood. (Revised to 7 out of 10)