The foundations of Nottingham band Dark Matter were established when frontman Jack and guitarist Ed impressed each other while jamming Metallica’s Master of Puppets. So it should come as no surprise that the band have honed a thrilling sound that offers up delicious riffs, huge solos and powerful vocals.
The quartet, completed by bassist James and drummer Ben, like to think of themselves as a “gateway metal band” or “a metal band for people who don’t normally like metal.” In other words, they’re heavy enough for copious amounts of lockdown air guitar and headbanging but also melodic enough for your mum to overhear it and not think it’s the Devil’s work.
Our first taste of what the band have to offer is one hell of a good one with debut EP Don’t Panic, which was released last month. From it, they sent us closing track Ecstasy, which opens up with a plodding bassline that’s soon joined by a powerful chugging guitar version of the same riff. The bass continues under Jack’s engaging vocals, which give way to a huge high-pitched guitar blast alongside the returning big riff.
An impressive prolonged wail drops into huge vocals “‘Cause I’m getting high, So high on you, Unleash my mind with all that you do, Take me back to a place that I’ve never been, Back to a place where I can breathe you in, Back somewhere that I don’t understand, And when we’re done I’m gonna start again” over big chunky chords.
The lone bass takes over again, with Jack’s light vocals coming in alongside a light lick before his big vocals take over again. This time it gives way to a rumbling bassline with various guitars gradually creeping in before a delicious laid-back guitar solo, which continues alongside backing vocals that take us to the end. This is so, so good, and you can check it out below:
On the track, Jack tells us: “Jack: Ecstasy is heavily influenced by my passion for classic 60s/70s rock music and I tried to make that more prevalent in this song than with the others on the record, it borrows short motifs and ideas from some of my favourite songs and is my love letter to my biggest influences (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin). I like to think it is distinctly more classic in vibe from the other tracks on the album while still consistent in style.”
And in terms of what to expect from the rest of the EP, he adds: “The rest of the EP is slightly heavier, generally covering slightly more controversial issues of being a young adult living in a modern world.
Think of the Children is a scathing view on turning a blind eye to those who need it most just to confirm your belief system. Snowflakes is less subtle in its disdain towards the media’s representation of the current generation of young adults and objectification based on name calling (snowflakes and millennials). And Panic is about what I expect to happen when the world reacts to climate change after it’s too late.”
A personal favourite from the track is the superb Snowflakes. It opens up with a rumbling bassline then a big smash of chunky guitars, which drop into powerful opening vocals answered by stabbing guitars. I think it’s physically impossible not to bounce along to the lively guitars and scream along with the infectious vocals that dominate the first 1:40 of the song.
There’s a little light relief with a laid-back section led by a little lick then mellow vocals that end with repeats of “I’ve got a snowflake’s chance in hell.” Then the big chunky guitars and a stabby bass return with a big cry of “Hell” and a disgustingly good guitar solo that closes the track on a high. Give it a listen below:
While the EP opens up with Think of the Children, which wouldn’t be out of place on any Metallica record. It opens up with a lively guitar riff then awesome fast-paced vocals are answered by brief heavy guitar retorts. That feeds into a cool chorus of “Good God, Am I a sinner?, My guilty conscience has buried my mind, Oh Lord am I forgiven? I’ll pray that you will pity my kind, Don’t stop me breathing, Don’t stop me feeling, Don’t stop me hearing, Don’t stop me, I speak for all of mankind” then spoken vocals “Purity lost, Innocence ruined, Oh the humanity think of the children.” A huge cry of “Yeah” and creepy laughing come in alongside a driving riff that picks up pace then drops into another lively verse.
A second chorus gives way to another massive guitar solo over a lively riff, which continues to bring the track to an end alongside a huge cry of “Yeah.” What an awesome track! And you can check it out below:
As a nod to the quotes we mentioned in the intro, describing the sound of Dark Matter, Jack says: “We’re a Metal band with clean vocals or a Rock band with heavy riffs. I’ve still not managed to find a category for us, but I like to think of us as a gateway metal band or ‘a metal band for people who don’t normally like metal.'”
And when it comes to musical inspirations he references Ronnie James Dio and Paul Rodgers for his vocals, Peter Green for his guitar approach and System of a Down and Muse as his biggest songwriting influences.
Building on that, Jack explains: “I’ve been writing songs as long as I can remember! The only ones that tend to stick around to be played by the band or by me personally are ones that have a deeper meaning to me.
“I’ve tried writing about more upbeat topics like some of my favourite bands, but they never quite sit right in my head and I don’t feel right when I sing them. I use writing as my outlet to explain the things that I would struggle to without proper thought, much like an opinion piece or short essay. Getting the right lyrics for the right song can take months, it tends to come in flashes of inspiration (often in the shower!).”
Of course, it’s hard to know when the band will be able to play gigs again but, as soon as they are able, they will be. And we suspect this will be one band you will not want to miss live when things do open up again. And the even better news is that Jack is already in the process of writing more songs, so stay tuned for plenty more very soon.