Dark Mother understand doom. The Nottingham duo aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, or to take the genre to some new, strange place. Rather, this demo is a release that traces its lines right back to the days when the genre was first blooming its dark flowers. It goes beyond Sabbath worship and looks back to those sounds which first helped lay the groundwork for Iommi and co – chiefly, the blues and psychedelic rock – and combines it with a real sense of heaviness and power. Yet what’s most notable about this demo is the way it takes such elements and gives them a sense of urgency and vitality that makes them sound revolutionary, the combination of familiar elements suddenly becoming new and striking. Put more plainly, it’s an incredible listen, and one that all doom fans should pay attention to.
Heavy, groove-laden riffs and glacial-pace drums are the order of the day, topped with Holly’s powerful, almost dramatic vocals. The loud/louder dynamic way she sings is very effective, especially during the choruses, and there’s just the right mix of desperation and dominance to her vocals. Combined with the raw production and back-to-basics playing, it gives the music an almost physical sensuality, most notably during “Mother Mary” – it may all be heavy and dark, but it never feels bleak.
The pre-metal blues influence is most apparent on closer “Power Struggle”, which opens with delightfully distressed blues-style scales, heavy in distortion and fuzz in a way that brings some of Boris’ best, most rocking work to mind. And whilst it never comes across as flashy, it would be a mistake to overlook Holly’s drumming – it’s powerful in a way that most other drummers playing this style of music aim for, but never achieve. But what impresses me most is the way that every cymbal crash and every floor tom pound comes across as both carefully measured, and utterly instinctive. It’s that sense which is perhaps the greatest strength of Dark Mother – these three songs feel not so much written as pulled from the aether, waiting for someone to take ownership and claim them as their own. When added to the confident, dominating way the band play, it gives a style that often feels played-out and old a new lease of life and vitality that is present in all the best music, regardless of genre.
If there’s one criticism that can be leveled at the demo, it’s that the songs don’t so much end as stop – there’s the sense that, were they allowed to, Dark Mother would carry on jamming these riffs and drum patterns until their bodies gave up, such is the undeniable, primordial power of them. Such rough edges are to be expected on a debut demo though, and must be seen in context for the minor criticisms that they are. If anything, I may be over-analysing the music, as it’s sure to pull any listener in to its spell. This demo is an absolute stormer, and if it can be built upon, then I would not be surprised to see Dark Mother become one of modern doom’s heavy-hitters.
Demo can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp.