Nearly fifteen years into their career, and three years after their previous record, Ritual, Alternative Metallers In This Moment have unleashed their seventh LP, Mother. Lead guitarist Chris Howorth went on record stating that this album is their “heaviest material” since 2012’s Blood – but does it deliver on that promise?
The simple answer to that is… yes and no, although this is certainly not a bad thing. For starters, and to give the album a better perspective, Mother is probably the band’s most conceptual work to date. They’ve veered towards this approach for some time now, but this is the best it has been realised yet. All one needs to do is look towards the imagery they have utilised, and there’s a distinct usage of religious iconography. This doesn’t stop at the visuals, it’s also carried into the sonic qualities of Mother, turning the idea of religion on it’s head. Instead of the usual symbolism of the ‘holy father’, this refers to the ‘holy Mother’, which is personified through frontwoman Maria Brink, told within track titles, as well as in lyrical themes scattered throughout the album. This gives the proceedings a feminine touch, and as Brink herself put it, ‘Mother is the key to life.’
As with any journey, we start at “The Beginning”. This has a foreboding ambience, to the distant sound of trumpet calls. Maria Brink Eerily whispers in the listeners ear, as if her presence is surrounding us. This bleeds flawlessly into “Fly Like An Eagle”, the track having a real tribal, primal sensation to it. As it continues to build, electronic effects are introduced, and then the heaviness drops in like a ton of bricks. The beat is incredibly addicting, and Brink’s range is impressive, the frontwoman absolutely belting out vocals. “The Red Crusade” is more of an interlude, an ethereal sounding choir leading neatly into “The In-Between”, which also acted as the first single for the album. This comes complete with some spooky, warped effects that explodes into an assault of heavy droning guitars, upping the intensity. It fleets between atmospheric and harder elements, saving the latter for it’s bigger moments. “Legacy” is mainly carried by a nimble, catchy electronic melody, with a a retro, cosmic feel to the soundscape. Chugging riffs pick up on this, bringing further energy, and there’s a gorgeous solo to boot. It’s surprisingly uplifting. Then there’s “We Will Rock You”, and yes, this is a Queen cover. Naturally, In This Moment have put their own, darker, heavier twist on it, aligning it to their iconic sound. The guest appearances of Lzzy Hale (Halestorm) and Taylor Momsen (The Pretty Reckless) make this a triple threat. Each of the vocalists bounce off one another, having their own moments to shine. Nothing will beat the legendary nature of the original, of course, but this is definitely a worthy cover and is the record’s fun moment. The tone shifts dramatically in title track “Mother”, opening to strong piano and a conglomeration of vocal crescendos. It has a very theatrical feel to it, sending a surprisingly hopeful message. There are a lot of layers to unpack, adding a cinematic flair.
Sonically it starts out less bulky for sure, but this continues to build with a massive payoff in the latter half, as it progresses towards a more raw soundscape.
The pace then picks up tenfold in “As Above, So Below”, the creepy, distorted horror movie style ambience building to the return of the familiar gritty, sleazy metal sound, alongside Brink’s banshee screams. This track could easily be taken from the Black Widow era. “Born In Flames” is ballad-like in comparison. It sounds lacking at first, but grows upon multiple listens. There’s an almost 80’s aesthetic to the electronic elements, that are very space-like. Unsettling, twisted effects signal the start of “God Is She”, amongst massive, pounding drums. It soon roars back to the barrage of bulky metal soundscapes, contrasted by Brink’s sweet vocals. Church organs quickly transition to a Marilyn Manson-eque riff in “Holy Man”, and one that has an extremely catchy hook. The evolution only continues as the song builds to a sweeping chorus section. I wasn’t too keen on “Hunting Grounds” as a stand-alone track, but it fits perfectly in this slot on the record. It’s dark, dramatic, and has a sense of urgency to it. The synths are haunting, leading to some powerful, booming moments. Joe Cotela (Ded) delivers some great guest vocals, working in harmony alongside Brink. “Lay Me Down” has a medieval style tinge to it, having the qualities of folk music, complete with some deep backing vocals. This leads into a fist-pumping metal number, that is bound to please crowds. “Into Dust” is a pretty extraordinary way to end the album, being as beautiful as it is ghostly. The ambience has a haunting mood, yet the piano is captivating. Brink’s soft tones are soothing, making it sound like a lullaby. There are even orchestral engagements here, and they are captivating.
Needless to say, after the promise of a “heavy” record, Mother is not at all what I was expecting. However, there are definite moments of heaviness, and perhaps this needs to be taken at more than just face value. It’s very much there, but presented in more subtle, nuanced ways, very much carried by the themes rather than only in it’s sound. Sonically it starts out less bulky for sure, but this continues to build with a massive payoff in the latter half, as it progresses towards a more raw soundscape. Although that’s not to say the first half isn’t worth it, far from it in fact. Listening from beginning to end is an absolute must, being an enthralling journey.
It’s not the record I expected, but it’s also the record I didn’t know I wanted.
Honestly, the spectrum that In This Moment have covered on this record is impressive. It goes to dark atmospheric places, sometimes it’s more ethereal, then there’s the powerful, massive assaults of pure metal. The fact that this is all grounded and stitched together so coherently by such a strong theme makes it all the more satisfying. I thought Ritual really hit home in it’s approach, but this record is more than just a sequel to it, and truly takes everything to the next level. The culmination of striking visual imagery, a deep concept that lends itself to a strong narrative and a powerful sound that spans through an incredible range of alternative metal, makes Mother an immersive experience. It’s not the record I expected, but it’s also the record I didn’t know I wanted.
Final Verdict: A strong narrative carries Mother forward, complete with an incredibly rich alternative metal soundscape. It may not seem as heavy as promised at face-value, but look deeper and it becomes so much more, making for an immersive journey.