By Emma Furrier
Mother Muerte is a California-based rock duo, comprised of lead singer Chelsea Salanoa and Jose Cadenas on drums and percussion. Originally hailing from San Francisco, they’ve now planted their roots in Vallejo, California, where they draw inspiration from its Mexican origins to incorporate into their unique, Latin blended sound. Having met approximately 8 years ago while each playing in separate bands, the duo began writing and playing together in 2015 and have since released two albums together under Mother Muerte.
Musically, both members bring different influences and sounds to the band. Growing up listening to genres such as metal and Latin, Jose incorporates this into his percussion style, while Chelsea brings in her love for 60s and 70s rock and folk music. With both of these contrasting influences known, it is evident in their sound that Mother Muerte integrates each spectrum of sound, while putting their own unique spin on their style. Classifying themselves as creating “mystical rock ballads infused with danceable Latin rhythms”, the band truly combines a variety of styles, which result in a haunting, compelling and instantly identifiable quality.
Their most recent release, ‘Mother Muerte (Demo)’, is a twelve-track album released on November 2, 2020. This album contains three singles, ‘Stranger’, ‘Restless’ and ‘Creature’, all of which put you under a trance with their psychedelic infused Latin rhythm. The album’s opening tack, ‘The Burden’ kicks off with the chiming of cymbals and simple chord progression, which then picks up and dives into a rhythmic, Latin-influenced rock ballad. Chelsea’s vocals pair perfectly with the drawl of guitar, holding a haunting quality that lingers with every lyric. The track quickly picks up its tempo, and a variety of Latin percussion instruments are heard joining in sync with one another in the background, while the guitar roars in a style reminiscent to 70s rock and roll. In the breakdown, Chelsea sings melancholically, “I will meet you once again/In my dreams or in my death/Crows of sorrow, guide me home/Mother Muerte rest my soul”. This song is the perfect opener to the album, as it introduces the band’s soul-stirring sound, while presenting their thematic approach to darker subjects of life, love, and loss.
The subsequent track, ‘Devil’s Interlude’ flows seamlessly into a slower rhythm, while complementing its preceding track perfectly. The insistent strum of guitar leads you into a trance, while the surrounding percussion picks up faster and faster, until it explodes in a palpitating Latin track that leaves you with the demanding urge to dance and sway. Conga drums tap out a high tempo, rhythmic flow that is layered under the demanding riffs of guitar. They flow perfectly together; each contouring into a progressive cadence that resembles a haunting melody in the likes of The Velvet Underground meets Santana.
Each track on this albums flows synchronically into the next, almost as if it is a continuation, or an afterthought expanded on in a variety of clever ways. Together, this builds into a thematic, moody piece of work that insists on being played in its entirety. The track ‘Smothered in a Dream’ falls into a swagger of guitar that resembles classic southern rock, a-la ZZ Top La Grange era, with a dirty, rock and roll essence. The foot-stomping breakdown of the song explodes into a roar of kick drums and bass while the lyrics “She promised me light at the end of the tunnel/Flowers at the base of my grave/ Love, and tears of affection/But she giveth and she taketh away/She taketh away” bring the song to a grand finale, shadowing its own subject. The next track ‘Restless’ follows in suit of its prior musical instrumentation, while adding the draw of conga or wood block sounds, integral in Latin production. Almost suddenly, the song picks up in speed, creating a sense of urgency, before dropping back down into a slower and steadier beat. The track takes us on a ride, up and down, ebbing and flowing in whichever way Mother Muerte wants us to go. There is a relentless beat to it that demands attention, while the vocals pour out over the track in a stirring echo. There is a deliberate measure here, and the track is laid out as if the band knows exactly where they want to take us, as the audience lays right in the palm of their hand. It is one the longest cuts on the album, coming in at 8:07 full of alternating inflections and expressive Latin rock.
Other tracks on the album such as ‘G.O.D. (Gift of Death)’, ‘Stranger’ and ‘Bed of Cempasuchil’ live in the same realm of Latin rock, while also adding elements of reggae, bolero, southern rock and roll, and alternative rock. The entirety of this album is thematic, and holds a haunting quality to it, reminiscent of a soundtrack to films such as Tarantino’s ‘From Dusk till Dawn’. With their steady build in tempo, heavy use of percussion and guitar, and lyrical focus on life, death and traditional Mexican elements, Mother Muerte establishes themselves as truly evocative Latin-fused rockers, while unequivocally stepping outside of the box. Unafraid to blend a variety of genres, they represent American rock in its purest form, taking traditional elements and building them into a larger-scale presumptuous blend of influences and style, that is uniquely and unabashedly their own.
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