Formed in 2015 in Newburgh, New York, Mama Doom started out with the classic doom-rock, guitar heavy sound, releasing their assured debut album From Blue To Bone in 2018. Three years on, those guitars have disappeared, having been replaced by prominent, melodic bass lines, atmospheric keyboards and ‘80s inspired post-punk synths. Leaning into horror film references and adding a sensual gothic undercurrent to their sound, Mama Doom have re-emerged as a new beast entirely.
Their stunning second album Ash Bone Skin N Stone, out on 23rd July via Swedish label Majestic Mountain Records, is packed full of addictive tunes that fans of Black Sabbath, Ghost and Black Moth will surely appreciate. The absence of guitars on a doom record may sound strange on paper, but the lack of riffs only serves to elevate their sound to enigmatic new heights. In anticipation for its release, vocalist/keyboardist D. Lolli spoke to Astral Noize about the band’s formation, tackling misogyny and why the band decided to ditch the guitars.
Alongside this chat, we’re also excited to be bringing you an exclusive stream of ‘Slither’, taken from the upcoming album, which you can enjoy below.
Take us back. How and where did you meet, and how did the idea to form a band come into being?
Chris Smak [drums] and Chuckie Rumbles [bass] have been playing music together since they were kids. They lived in the same neighbourhood and spent most of their childhood together playing music. Several years back I was singing for a death metal band and Chuck joined on guitar. He and I became close friends and we left to pursue our own musical endeavours. Joining up with Chris, the three of us have been playing together ever since. We’ve all played in other projects but we’ve been going strong with Mama Doom since 2015.
What are your musical backgrounds? Have you been musicians/singers since an early age?
During my childhood I was accustomed to performing, not musically but dancing as a classically trained ballerina. I was very comfortable being on stage. My older sister was the singer in the family with her loud and overpowering voice where I was more on the quiet side. She used to make me sit with headphones blaring while having me singalong; this was so she could hear my voice. I didn’t realise I wanted to sing in a band until I was about thirteen or fourteen years old. I would constantly be hanging out at the nearby music clubs watching local punk bands perform. The power they had over the crowd of people dancing and throwing themselves around. I wanted nothing more than to be up there commanding the room. The punk/skinhead scene was a tight community and it served as a second family to me; it was my escape from home.
What bands and artists got you into music?
Besides the local bands I’d watch as a young kid, I was very much into Nirvana, Fiona Apple, L7, The Queers, Alice In Chains, Black Flag, Jefferson Airplane etc.
What current music are you listening to and enjoying?
Currently I’ve been rocking to King Woman, Devil’s Witches, Red Fang, Adia Victoria, Amigo The Devil and Twin Temple.
What’s the origin of the name Mama Doom?
The three of us had played together for years by this point under the name The Gentling. The name for us represented a lighter musical style than we had played in the past. Even though we were not as heavy as prior projects the name was a misnomer. With the start of Mama Doom we knew we wanted a better representation of our sound, something dark yet feminine.
What prompted the move to ditch the guitars this time around?
We had a problem keeping a bass player tied down. We spent more time over the past few years teaching new members our tunes so that we could continue to play shows; it put a real hold on the writing process. Chuck, who was Mama Doom’s guitar player, is a well-known bass player in our area. One night the two of us were messing around and he was playing bass while I sang. It was amazing, we realised we had our solution. Additionally, a big musical inspiration of ours is Morphine, which if you are unfamiliar is bass, drums and sax. I personally find the bass to be such a sexy instrument that needed a lead role.
What do you think the synths and keyboard bring to your sound?
It was Chuck’s idea that I pick up the keyboard. We agreed that using different sounds via keys/synths would add a little more flare to the music. Without guitars, we felt we needed another element to create some dynamic. A little here, a little there and we think it worked perfectly.
It’s a wonderfully unique sound, the bass and drums augmented by synths feel incredibly rich. Do you think the band will stick with it for future releases?
Oh yes, this is our sound, and we are sticking to it! This combination feels fresh and inspiring to us and we have absolutely no desire to change. Some might say it’s risky not having guitars, but I like a little risk.
‘Slither’ has the lyric, “Misogyny gotta go”, which is an important statement. What inspired this, and what themes in general inspire your lyrics?
In the past I would write about experiences and my own childhood; pain, struggle, metal health, addiction, relationships, etc. With the reinvention of Mama Doom, we’ve not only changed up the sound but lyrically went down a more horror vibe. Throughout there are real-life issues though. ‘Slither’ is a song about equality and standing together. I used the situation between Poseidon, Athena and Medusa as lyrical content. Society in general has this horrible habit of blaming the victim as if they had it coming somehow.
Any plans to take this album on the road?
We’d love to but like most bands we are waiting to see what happens as things start opening up again. We are hopeful that having a Swedish label will provide us with an opportunity to play in Europe.
Ash Bone Skin N Stone is out 23rd July via Majestic Mountain Records. Order here.
Words: Adam Pegg