Review: Mamaleek ‘Diner Coffee’

Mamaleek are two unknown brothers who weld black metal, trip hop, and jazz metal together. By masking the restrictions of clinging to one genre, their chameleon-like smokescreen of music manages to never sound tired, happy, sad or annoyed. Their only constant is plunging into and the mastery of various genres. They also love the revelry in fucking with whatever set rules a genre has. Either 2020s Come And See or 2015s Via Dolorosa are my most returned to of their albums. 2018s Out Of Time is the pick for so many of my favorite people, but really, all of their albums are worth your time. Maybe you’ll even listen long enough and attempt to find yourself in one of them.

Mamaleek 'Diner Coffee'

Looking at the coffee poured by the graveyard shift waitress who never looks tired, happy, sad or annoyed. She is an unknowable constant who pours a never-ending cup of coffee. Mixing sugar and cream to my taste, curbs the bitterness to my liking. Seeing my curved reflection in the liquid staring back, stretching each facial feature to something both unfamiliar and still undeniably me.

Swallowing my reflection, the first cup distorts and bends my world. The buzzing on Libations To Sacred Clowns shakes my nerves, making my now heavy head relax against the wall of the diner. A hard strummed guitar jolts with the urgency of a gunshot spliced with some canned and uncanny laughter. I’m miles away from sharing the fun.

I down refilled coffee, making my attention scatter as a wave of freshness brings a high I feel content in chasing forever.

A balancing act between guttural screaming and free jazz starts Boiler Room. This hodgepodge style has been running throughout Mamaleek’s discography, but here the disorientation feels so refined and unflappable. Broken vocal delivery spouts something about being a salesman as brutal catharsis is achieved over and over between meaty jazz build-ups. Shrieks dance against strange drums that laugh in the face of normal time signatures.

Badtimers starts with a summertime breeze style collection of notes, easing any anxiety, only for the song to begin festering and growing inflamed. Verses are vomited and blend with the still present jazzy mood. Rather than being at odds, the metal and jazz aspects feel apathetic toward each other. Imagine two makeshift bands on the same street corner where all members simply shrug and perform, while the two are bridged by the gorgeousness of a piano played off in the distance.

Swallowing a now cooled cup in one gulp, undissolved sugar slides down my throat. Nauseousness and the beating of my heart in my ears is all I can feel.

Save Your Poor Wicked Soul acts as a bit of a breather. Its grooving guitar, deep bass, and vocals free from the urgency found on every other track would fit perfectly along the beatnik scene from the 1960s.

A balancing act between guttural screaming and free jazz…

Sweat drips from every pore but I recognize my reflection in the waitress’s curved glass pot.

Awkward and tense phone messages begin Grief And A Headhunter’s Rage. A long build-up starts but the perverted and profane words from the voicemail lingers over the rest of the song. Crescendos finally explode and we find the song’s massive weight sitting on our chest, leaving flailing legs and arms, unable to do anything to break free. A guitar, impossible to tear your attention away from, makes things a dizzying mess, dividing a string section to one part too loose and one too tight, creating an otherworldly, spiralled out sound.

A group exits, revealing a mirror where I see my reflection free from the distortion of liquid or glass, and under a harsh fluorescent light. A ghastly, haggard and unrecognizable sight stares back.

Some shapeless entity possessing a now broken orchestra plays Wharf Rats In The Moonlight. The ability of each player is undeniably present, but each instrument moves in a way that never seems to flow properly. A record’s skip in the distance creeps front and center to ignite, melt, and smolder, leaving a somber background. Feedback goes stretched becoming the song’s brittle backbone that could shatter at any second. The record skipping exorcised the entity, but the orchestra now slowly trickles the demon out, until there’s nothing left but a hollow husk of each player floating.

Whatever I was chasing got away from me, so I walk towards the cash register leaving the half-finished cup that spent me.

The skittering start of album closer Diner Coffee is filled with unease. The past half hour has crawled by so slowly and uncomfortably, so why would they choose to let up now? The song is flooded with a depressed and emotionally drained malaise; like a hunter finally worn down after a breakneck outing. For music so adamant about remaining anonymous, and impossible to pin down, the song seems to walk aimlessly and desperate to blend, join, and melt with anything. The liquid enigma uses the last fleeting moments to seep into the earth.

I pay the waitress who cracks a joke about my caffeine intake. The abandoned coffee joins her laughter at my wasted time spent trying to find the end to a bottomless cup of coffee.

Diner Coffee is a dense album mixing jazz and metal to curb the bitterness of dissonance to my taste. After my first listen, this auditory trampoline session left my equilibrium feeling kicked in the stomach. Or maybe I just had way too much coffee dropped into a mug, by someone too socially agile to be able to be pinned down, or even observed, by a living soul outside a delirious state of mind. Like all previous Mamaleek albums, subsequent listens rip away layers of an intricate mask, only to reveal another, more sinister, one.

Label: The Flenser
Band Links: Bandcamp

Scribed by: Richard Murray