Mama Doom – Ash Bone Skin N Stone Review

Occult rock has undergone something of a renaissance. Over the past few years, it would seem that a crop of Blue Öyster Cult devotees have taken a collective step outside of their salt circle and onto the lighted stage. Whether it’s the pop metal Satanism of Ghost, or the 70s-tinged stylings of groups like Lucifer, Blood Ceremony and Witch Mountain, occult rock with just the right amount of metallic edge has taken a very specific subset of the world by storm. So where does New York’s Mama Doom fit into the pentagramed paradigm? This witchy three-piece have dropped the guitar and cranked the bass on their second full-length Ash Bone Skin N Stone. While this certainly sets them apart from the cacophony of six-string fuzz that often overwhelms this genre, is their newest album worth your time? Let’s don our favorite ram-horned ritual hoods, grab our preferred arcane grimoires, and find out together. 

The promo material describes Mama Doom as “traversing…traditional blues, doom, and ego-death metal.” In my (hardly) humble opinion, I’d say they traffic in a familiar form of occult rock with a handful of doomy flourishes, perfectly atmospheric synthesizers, and more hooks than you’d find in Colonel Blake’s hat. And as I mentioned before, they do it all without the aid of a guitarist. In that way, Ash Bone Skin N Stone is a significant departure from the band’s 2018 album From Blue to Bone, which put riff over synth, to enjoyable if not entirely mind-blowing effect. Mama Doom has gone a different direction here, and they’re all the better for it. The lack of 70s-infused solos and trudging riffs is more than made up for by a thick, ever-present bass, tone-setting keyboards, and bolder, more effective songwriting. in just three short years, it’s clear that Mama Doom have grown, evolving into an almost completely different band. 

A band, I might add, with the ability to dish out some truly memorable tunes, infused with unexpected doses of dark humor and mood to spare. Album opener “Batshit Crazy” grabs your attention right away; and not just because of the low-key title. The atmospheric, synth-laden intro, roaring bass riff, and show-stealing lead vocals courtesy of D. Lolli had me ready to purchase concert tickets to the Mama Doom show in my hometown that I’m certain doesn’t exist. Subsequent tracks are just as strong, with “Vodka,” “Indigo,” and “Oh, Lucifer” serving as particular standouts. The latter gives off serious Opus Eponymous-era Ghost vibes, with killer bass runs, an unforgettable chorus, and boasting perhaps one of my favorite lyrics on the album: “I’m having a black mass, and nobody came…” this delivery and so much else that make Ash Bone Skin N Stone a success can be attributed to frontwoman, keyboardist and “High Priestess” D. Lolli, the undeniable MVP of this far too short outing.

Which brings me to my only real gripe: for a band so clearly capable of pulling together a fun, catchy occult-core album, there’s not enough for it to feel like a full experience. So often here on AMG, we blast bands for the inability to edit themselves, and rightly so. Many times, potentially great albums suffer from bloviation and bloat (consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms). The opposite is the case on Ash Bone Skin N Stone, which is so heavily edited that I came away not only wishing for more, but curious about what I potentially missed out on. The concise nature of the album also doesn’t leave room for even minor issues. And while there isn’t a single bad or even so-so song to be found, latter-half tracks “Werewolf” and “Cherry” both lack the punch and immediacy of stronger cuts, and it’s made all the more noticeable due to the album’s brevity.

While I may have a few quibbles with the album’s length and some of the weaker tracks, especially when compared to the absolute bangers D. Lolli and co. offer up, Ash Bone Skin N Stone is an extremely enjoyable slab of synthy, doomy, bassy occult rock. We metalheads get so enamored of the latest one-man, post-black, progressive ambient navel-gazing we forget that sometimes, metal can still be simple, powerful, and fun. And that’s what we have here. After several years of experimentation, it would appear Mama Doom have arrived at a winning formula; one I will gladly return to again and again.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR:  | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Majestic Mountain Records
Websites: mama-doom.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/MamaDoommusic
Releases Worldwide: July 23rd, 2021

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