MAMA DOOM - ASH BONE SKIN N STONE
US ROCKERS TONE DOWN THEIR GUITARS FOR SYNTHS FOR AN ORIGINAL BANGER
New York’s Mama Doom have pared down raucous guitars in favour of a synth heavy sound on their second album Ash Bone Skin N Stone. That might cause inevitable palpitations among diehard acolytes of occult rock, but their black candles need not splutter too much as Mama Doom have lost none of their rock swagger and the band have dropped a record that truly expands horizons. Try opener Batshit Crazy which, despite the big sweeps of retro 1980s synths, is clearly a well-written, confidently executed ballsy rock song. The synths on this, and elsewhere on the record, are stylishly spliced and sound natural rather than experimental, forced or garish. This same formula is deployed in a flurry of catchy tracks that buttress that first half of the album from the toned down post-grunge of Vodka to the brasher rock-out of Blood Moon or single Oh Lucifer. Each is strident, boisterous and overtly melodic, but augmented with spooky melodrama thanks to synth backing that ranges from towering Gary Numan walls of atmosphere or toned-down creepiness of an old ZX Spectrum haunted house game.
Despite the gothic aesthetic, however, Ash Bone Skin N Stone is not what you might anticipate. Mama Doom’s brand of occult accented rock isn’t as studiedly serious or pallidly po-faced as some of their incense-singed peers. Their music instead belies some occasional self-deprecating humour with the not completely serious Batshit Crazy or Oh Lucifer’s refrain of ‘I’m having a black mass and nobody came’. More than that, however, this album has some undeniably feelgood moments. The pseudo-creepy veil keeps slipping off revealing some decent groovy melodies and catchy post-grunge poppy rock. Mama Doom are playful and skittish with the occult overtones and are essentially a really good rock band. There is no reason why the likes of Blood Moon could not be played at festivals for example.
D. Lolli’s characterful vocals and charismatic presence are crucial to Mama Doom’s formula and her performance works out ideally. With an appreciable range, she delivers with a cool rock aloofness that is at once sassy, soulful, saccharine, bold and gutsy. She can pull off the more fragile moments like Indigo to the defiant rocky Slither or the trashy Cherry with effortless aplomb. Put simply, D. Lolli is a find. Her talents are, however, complimented though with a solid, simple yet inventive tight band unit.
Despite its brevity, this is a versatile album that is arty enough to appeal to flaneurs, adequately rocky to keep the home crowd cheering, but catchy and unique to attract new listeners. It also opens a range of possible future stylistic options for Mama Doom who have hit upon a musical vein that is so deceivingly simple it is brilliant. Interesting to see where this takes them.