Reverend Mother – Damned Blessing Review

This review owes its existence to a coincidence of timing. I’ve been reading the Dune series over the course of the last year, so I was immediately drawn to the band name Reverend Mother when I was browsing the promo pit. And it just so happens, that as I write this, I’ve just begun the fifth book in the series, Heretics of Dune, a book that turns the focus of Frank Herbert’s saga primarily towards the Bene Gesserit, the immensely powerful and influential part-Jedi, part-CIA, part Illuminati sisterhood, whose most highly ranked members are referred to as ‘Reverend Mother.’ Now, I have no clue if the name of Brooklyn’s Reverend Mother has anything to do whatsoever with the Dune series, but it was enough to convince me to give the band’s stoner/doom style a chance. Will Reverend Mother compel me with the power of the Voice, or will they have me reciting the Litany Against Fear?

Once known as Priestess, this power trio of Brooklyn musicians recently reinvented themselves as Reverend Mother and released a self-titled EP. Led by frontwoman and guitarist Jackie Green, the band’s sound on debut full-length Damned Blessing is a testament to their love of classic rock and metal like Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, and The Doors. Green has a really cool, almost belligerent, drawling voice that melds with her fuzz-laden riffs to create a sound that is quintessentially ‘stoner.’ Lead single “Locomotive” is one of the album’s highlights, its rollicking main riff and bluesy leads channeling the act’s Sabbath influence strongly while Green puts in one of her best vocal performances on the record.

The album opens competently with “How to Serve Man,” a doomy number with some great guitar work, and the title track has some killer riffs and weird tempo changes. “Shame” has some of the album’s heavier parts and demonstrates Green’s effortless soloing style, the latter of which is one of Damned Blessing’s strongest features. The nine-minute “The Masochist Tie” is a slower jam that drags on for too long, but “Road to Lose” is a fast-paced blues rocker that features some energetic harmonica, proving that Reverend Mother can take some chances and succeed.

But while one of the most interesting aspects of Reverend Mother’s style is their willingness to take chances, that aspect also becomes one of Damned Blessing’s greatest downfalls. Green has played violin since a young age, and contributes some string work to three-minute instrumental “L.V.B.” I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but when the violin comes in to accompany a guest cello performance, something just seems off. One or both instruments seem flat and/or sharp, and it creates a very unsettling listening experience, and not in a good way. Another chance is taken by tacking on a near one-minute radio sample to the end of the opening track, killing the momentum that the track worked so hard to build. And to add insult to injury, that opening track is immediately followed by “Funeral March,” a super chill, psychedelic instrumental that further drains the momentum. And then there’s the Britney Spear’s cover. The album closes with a stoner cover of “Toxic,” and while I don’t necessarily hate it (or do I? I’m still not sure), it just feels like a weird way to end. All told, I don’t have a ton to recommend here, but “How to Serve Man” (minus the sample), “Locomotive,” “Road to Lose,” and the title track should please the stoners out there.

‘Damned Blessing’ ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy here. There’s a lot of good potential to be found within Reverend Mother’s sound, but it’s marred by some strange choices and a lack of editing. When Jackie Green is crooning and riffing her brains out, and when her emotive leads are soaring, I feel the Voice bewitching me. When pointless interludes, off-key violins, and surprise Britney Spears covers rear their heads, I face my fear, let it pass through me, and when I turn to see its path, there will be nothing. Only I, and a handful of good tracks, will remain. Hopefully, the band can capitalize on their strengths next time around.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Seeing Red Records
Releases Worldwide: October 7th, 2022

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