Fostermother – The Ocean Review

More so than any other genre of metal, doom relies upon momentum. If you cast your mind back to Ms. Johnson’s 6th grade science class, you’ll recall that momentum is a product of both mass and velocity. Which is to say: if you want more momentum, you either need more speed, or you need more weight. If you’re a doom band looking for a weighty metaphor, there is nothing heavier on earth than the damn ocean. And Fostermother, a trio from Houston Texas, are here to use that idea in their sophomore album to convey complex ideas about depression in a society which emphasizes personal greed over human connection. Now, this is hardly earth-shattering stuff. Isis, and the helpfully named The Ocean, have both used the sea as a metaphor for romantic and spiritual loneliness before.  But Fostermother promise to bring a new take on the subject matter. Is this one gonna dunk you under with mesmeric force, or just tickle you in a gentle swirl?

Fostermother plays a brand of doom that combines the sensibility and clean vocals of classic doom with the fuzzy sheen of stoner. There are also eddies of psychedelia and currents of post-metal heaviness, especially in its more serious moments. The tracks on the album can broadly be classified into two main groups: the heavy (“The Ocean,” “Solitude”) and the lighter, more psychedelic and thrashy (“Hedonist,” “Redeemer,” “Unholiest of Days”). While these elements work just fine individually, the combination is sometimes choppy, and The Ocean sometimes feels like it is unsure about the tone it is adopting.

When Fostermother emphasize speed, The Ocean is at its strongest. There’s the toe-tapping momentum of early Khemmis in songs like “Unholiest of Days,” which combines a simple but extremely catchy melody with enough heft and weight to propel it straight into your skull. “Redeemer” is another highlight, which gallops along on a fantastic riff and then seamlessly decides to head into fun and noodly psychedelia, before slamming home on the melody with which it started. Fostermother manage to infuse these tracks with enough density that they carry punch, but not so much that they lose their sense of entertainment. It’s top-notch doom, and an entire album of these would have put this into very rarified air.

It’s when Fostermother aims for unadulterated heaviness that The Ocean loses its momentum. Part of the problem is that the speed in songs like “Seasons” slows to an almost funeral-doom pace. With guitars crushing down with all the density and fuzz the master can manage, it’s heavy… but it ain’t crushing. This is because without the aforementioned speed, it gets mired in the friction it generates. “The Ocean” is similar, with its huge guitars creating great weight, but no particular momentum. The riffs on these songs are just not as compelling as those on some of the lighter numbers. They desperately need a hook, but none are to be found. Fortunately, tracks like these are in the minority, and there aren’t enough of them to truly derail The Ocean. But for an album dealing seriously with such intense subject matter, these cuts were clearly meant to be the cornerstones (they’re the longest on the album). Instead, they’re the least compelling, especially as they’re both stacked next to much stronger tracks. This odd structure gives the album a very unbalanced feeling.

The Ocean, then, is a very promising and ambitious mixed bag. When Fostermother sticks to classic, accessible stuff, it’s a smashing success, allowing the listener to cruise on a fast, manageable wave of classically performed doom. But when things get overly fuzzy or serious, it loses momentum, and the enjoyability factor gets sucked down with it. This is only disappointing because of the highs which came before. Perhaps ultra-serious music about depression isn’t really where Fostermother’s considerable strengths lie. While the band tries to figure it out, we’re left with a fun collection that you will enjoy surfing in parts, but doesn’t quite have the momentum to take you all the way back to shore.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ripple Music
Websites: fostermother.bandcamp.com/album/the-ocean  |  facebook.com/fostermother/
Releases Worldwide: February 18th, 2022

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