Interviews About Albums: Cruel Mother - Cut Down For The Earth (2024)

In this new interview, we sat down with the British Folk Metal/Doom Metal band Cruel Mother to ask questions about their album "Cut Down For The Earth".

1. What can you say about this new EP/CD?

This is our first release as a band and marks a year since our current Cruel Mother line-up came into being (James - vocals and guitar, Kirstie - guitar, Becky - backing vocals and bass, David - violin, Dan - drums and music production). It's a collection of traditional British folk ballads about death and murder reinterpreted with a stoner-doom twist - imagine if 70s British folk revival bands like Steeleye Span had gone down the route of Black Sabbath and added some crunchy guitars and heavy riffs. We feel that “folk doom” best reflects the style of Cruel Mother. The violin sets us apart from most other stoner-doom bands as it adds that trad-folk element into the mix, complementing the concept and lyrics. We're super excited to be sharing our doom-metal take on these traditional folk songs and hopefully bring something new to the table.

2. What is the meaning of the EP/CD name?

The title "Cut Down for the Earth" is a line taken from our rendition of John Barleycorn. It's a traditional English and Scottish ballad describing the process of killing and torturing its namesake, the personification of barley, for brewing ale (or whisky in Scotland). Each stage of John Barleycorn's life and death corresponds to a stage in the brewing process – being sown, grown, harvested, roasted, thrown in the mashing tun, and so on. The cycle repeats again with the next harvest. So “cut down for the earth” is both a reference to this ancient death-and-rebirth ritual (invoking the sinister side of British folklore, captured in films like The Wicker Man), and to the murder-ballad concept of Cruel Mother.

3. Which one is the composer of the CD/EP?

The lyrics themselves are all reworked from traditional British folk songs in the Roud Folk Song Index. In printed ballad form they range from the early 17th century to the 19th; some with oral origins likely stretching back hundreds of years – such as My Name is Death – and others relating to specific events, like The Red Barn, which tells of a brutal murder that took place in Suffolk in 1827. The band’s concept and music were created by Becky, the bassist, who has an interest in the history of print in England and particularly historic broadsides. It was initially only conceived as a doom project, but when David joined us on the violin for a jam, it suited the folk song theme so well, that our own ‘sound’ came together and the fiddle became an integral part of the Cruel Mother style.

4. If you had to pick one song, which one would you pick?

We would choose the first song Becky wrote, Down the Greenwood Side, our version of the eponymous “The Cruel Mother”; a supernatural tale of a mother who murders her illegitimate children and buries them, but then sees them repeatedly and must face up to her terrible deeds. Down the Greenwood Side encapsulates our band concept and style with groovy, doomy riffs and a catchy refrain – so you can sing along just like a folk song, but nod your head to the crunch at the same time. At the point the mother is damned by her undead children, our song reaches its climax with intense drums, shredding guitars, death growls, and piercing fiddle. Having a lead vocalist (James) and backing vocalist (Becky) also means we can represent multiple narrators in the song and combine these different vocal styles with the instrumentation to build that eerie, supernatural feel.

5. Is there a special message in this EP/CD? If there is, what is it?

This is, first and foremost, a fun music project with a historical concept behind it; we’re simply re-interpreting traditional folk songs with our own doom-metal spin. Most of these ballads have been covered by many different musicians in a folk context and continue to be sung today, but are far less known outside of the British trad-folk music scene or 70s folk-rock. So we’re reviving these stories in a different way by pairing heavy themes with heavy music, and hopefully, we can bring these interesting pieces of history and folk memory to new audiences.

6. Are there some lyrics that you'd love to share?

We particularly like the choruses of Down the Greenwood Side. They are different both times but play on the same language - the mother addresses the children: “I’d dress you up in silk so fine, lay you softly down beside…” and, the second time, “I’d dress you up in scarlet fine, lay you on soft down beside…”. This also metaphorically references the literal murder she has committed - silk cord was used to strangle them, and they were “dressed in blood as red as wine” when they were killed. We try to keep the poeticism of the early variants of each song to preserve their archaic quality, as that’s what invokes this sense of the past.

7. Which inspirations have been important for this album? Like musically or friends, family, someone you'd love to thank especially?

We all have different musical interests, spanning many sub-genres of metal, folk, and punk; some of the heavier aspects have taken inspiration from melodic black metal and Scandinavian folk metal. We’re all fans of Green Lung, who are conceptually similar with their themes of 70s-occult, folklore, and pagan Britain. One of our early reviewers for John Barleycorn likened us to Skyclad, which was hugely flattering particularly for Becky, as, although Cruel Mother wasn’t initially a folk-sounding project, Becky has been a huge Skyclad fan since her teenage years – so it seems only fitting for them to be an influence! We must also thank our first guitarist and vocalist, Izzy, for shaping the beginnings of Cruel Mother. Multi-talented Izzy now fronts Daughter, a black metal project with an angry, vital message about trans rights which you should definitely check out, and they’ve just released their first EP.

8. Something to add?

Only that we’d like to put in a plug for the London Metal Coalition ( who have been incredibly welcoming to a brand-new band like us on the London scene, and we totally vibe with their ethos of “collaboration over competition”. We’re very much a ‘learning’ band doing this around our full-time jobs, so it’s great to have this supportive network of other bands close to home who are willing to help each other out. They put on awesome meet-ups, gigs, and festivals, so give the LMC a follow and support the unsigned London metal scene. We’re also members of the UK Folk Metal Alliance which supports folk/Viking/pagan metal bands around the UK, and they run some great gigs up and down the country.

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