This review will add to the fact that the US is the biggest contributor for us reviewers here at TMO. THE MASS hails from Oakland; CA, a state that is as known for its porn industry as it is for music. When I read the promo sheet and saw music as diverse as THIN LIZZY, Frank Zappa, NEUROSIS and OPETH mentioned as influences I knew is was in for something different.
First of all I have to say that I hate Frank Zappa’s music, I loath it with the same intensity that I loath Nina Hagen’s. I don’t tend to listen to music I don’t like so I can’t really say if there is any truth to the Frank Zappa link. I haven’t been listening to THIN LIZZY anymore often but I have to say that what I’ve heard of them is way better than anything I’ve heard of Frank Crappa. I know it isn’t nice to talk bad about dead people but I give his children and eventual grand children, permission to mock me after I’m dead and then I don’t have to feel bad about it. I can’t validate the THIN LIZZY link either I’m afraid, what I’ve heard of that band has been quite simple, though good, Hard Rock. Still I would like to see the person who thinks of THIN LIZZY when listening to THE MASS. The same goes for the one who comes up with the OPETH while listening to “Perfect Picture of Wisdom and Boldness”.
I can forgive the writer of the info I possess simply because THE MASS sounds quite original. I’m not saying that they invented the guitar over again but the addition of a Saxophone gives THE MASS a unique sound. If you are a fan of CARPATHIAN FOREST you may’ve heard Saxophones used in Metal before but THE MASS does it a bit different. The difference is that THE MASS has integrated the sax in their sound; it is an important part of their music. I can officially declare that Saxophone has a place in Extreme Metal; this music can take any instrument if only used properly.
Guitars, Drums, Vocals and Bass are certainly the main beef here so one shouldn’t be afraid to get a sax overdose. The album starter consists only of the basis instruments and passes as one of the straighter tracks of the album, not meaning that there is any gay material on it. The production values will be considered as harsh by those who listen to music with hi-fi production values exclusively. The guitars aren’t heavily down tuned; they rip your ears rather than your belly. One strongpoint about the production for me is the fact that the bass guitar is audible, not enough, but at least I hear it. The drums fit in the mix with its non-triggered sound, nice to hear that for a change. The vocals ranges from intense screams to clean vocals, needless to say this means that “Perfect Picture of Wisdom and Boldness” is a varied album. Varied like an OPETH album maybe, but not sounding like one.
Even though it is a varied ride I think that “Perfect Picture of Wisdom and Boldness” will appeal to fans of Extreme music first and foremost. It may not be overly brutal but it is noisy indeed. Fortunately most of the noise is directed and done with purpose. The only song where I think things are getting a bit over the top is on the short outburst of noise called “Gas Pipe”. It sounds like the band decided to do a song where every member should make as much noise as possible. This rather unnecessary song is followed by the mellowest song of the album, “Meditation on the Some Carcass”. If nothing else it shows how diverse the music of THE MASS is. My favourite songs of the album are “Cloven Head” and “The Bringer”, mainly because they implant the use of saxophones quite brilliant here. The best part of the whole album can be found around the three minute mark in “Cloven Head”, that’s the way to use a saxophone. The song is good throughout its entire span but I felt for mentioning that part.
If you are one of those who complains about Metal becoming stale and boring you own THE MASS a listen. They didn’t win me over completely but I appreciate some of the ideas they have, I hope they can further develop their originality without becoming an oddball act. Being strange is not big feat, but being both strange and good is another story. (Online March 9, 2006)