|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: Tony Platt|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1985/2011||Artist Website: Mass|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 38:57|
The last time we heard from Boston, Massachusetts based Mass was the fall of 2010 when it released its obscure and relatively unknown full length debut Fighter on Retroactive Records. Why obscure and relatively unknown? Well, what many do not know is that Mass initially signed with A&M Records in the early eighties and started work on Fighter during the summer of 1982. Problems with the bands management, however, forced A&M to shelve the album the better part of three decades- at least until Retroactive stepped to the plate last year. Undaunted, Mass pressed on and put out a self-titled EP in 1984 prior to signing with RCA for what many consider the groups debut but is actually its sophomore release from 1985, New Birth. The fall of 2011 finds New Birth also being re-issued on Retroactive - re-mastered from the original source tapes and packaged in a 6 panel digipak - with lyrics and linter notes from vocalist Louis St. August.
New Birth, in a similar vein as Fighter, finds Mass continuing to traverse melodic metal and hard rock territory. Now, I hate to invite direct comparison because Mass gives prominence its own sound, but if you embrace the eighties hair metal scene, then I can see the group being of interest, albeit they bring a bit more musical depth than many from the era. Also, do not be deterred by the hair metal reference because Mass has less in common with the pop aesthetics of Poison and Warrant (although you will find some commercial aspects to the Mass material) and more with the heavier mindset of Dokken and early Stryper. And more to the point, the album, again not unlike Fighter, captures a raw edginess that literally oozes with the bands natural live energy.
Just check out “Too Far Gone”, “Back To Me” and “Watch Her Walk”, three up-tempo metal anthems with both hooks and energy to spare. “Voyager (Look To The Edge)”, perhaps the finest example of the groups songwriting skills, approaches things from a technical (almost sublime) standpoint, while “New Birth” and “Left Behind” continue to highlight a catchy sound but on the more mid-tempo side of things.
When Mass takes a commercial heading it proves no less laudable. “Crying Alone” and “Time” both bring a classic melodic hard rock sound (with complementary keyboards and radio friendly pop hooks) and “Do You Love Me” and “Day Without You” a customary ballad approach (an eighties metal album would not be complete without a couple of ballads, right?)
What stands out about New Birth is how it proves an album encompassing ten no-miss songs. In other words, what we do NOT have here is an album with a couple of radio hits, a handful of other good songs and the rest a bunch of filler. To the contrary, there is never a time when I am forced to hit the skip button, which is reflective of both the maturity to the group’s songwriting skills and where that previously referenced “musical depth” comes into play. It also must be noted that part of the albums consistency is a result of the group re-recording four of the better songs that originally appeared on Fighter: “Watch Her Walk”, “Too Far Gone”, “Do You Love Me” and “Voyager (Look For The Edge)”
Louis St. August is a talented vocalist with a high, soaring delivery touched with occasional elements of mid-ranged grit. To say that he is a perfect fit for the Mass style of melodic metal would be an understatement. Guitarist Gene D’ltria is another able performer, laying down more than ample rhythm guitar - and playing a significant role in the manner in which Mass brings a bit more muscle than many of its contemporaries - in addition to some very consummate lead guitar work. “Too Far Gone” and “Back To Me” feature choice examples of his blistering soloing abilities while “New Birth” showcases a distorted side to his playing and “Left Behind” a more bluesy influence.
Production comes across slightly raw in allowing the bands natural raw energy to, again, stand out.
Now, Mass is by no means a Christian band and New Birth not a Christian album. That being said, in the liner notes the group openly thanks “Our God Almighty and his Son Jesus Christ”. Several songs reflect a spiritual influence in their lyrics, most notably, “Too Far Gone” and “Voyager (Look For The Edge)”, but otherwise lyrics focus on relationships and life from a positive standpoint. In other words, if you enjoy AdrianGale, Action, Giant and Line Of Fire than I can see Mass also being of appeal.
Track By Track
“Too Far Gone” makes for a great high energy opener. The song starts to a drum solo but proves a decisive heavy hitter the rest of the way, anthem-like in terms of its chorus but snarling from the gritty emphasis of its pronounced low end. D'ltria really stretches and cuts loose on guitar. As already noted, “Too Far Gone” presents with some spiritual overtones in its lyrics:
Here come the angels
Flying high above
They’re trying to keep me from falling
Now it’s too late
My time has come
The devil’s here and he’s calling
No way out!
Can’t help me now!
Scream and shout!
Too far gone – I’m too far gone
“Crying Alone” backs off from some of the raw heaviness and heads in more mid-paced melodic hard rock territory. You will find, for instance, complementary keyboards and a notable melody that has radio friendly written all over it. Of note, the high end vocal performance from St. August.
The catchy melodic rock of “Time” maintains the slower tempo. More keyboards and an abundant melody will be found - the chorus hook is one you will be challenged to be rid of - as a softer (if not more commercial) side to the Mass songwriting abilities are reflected. “Time” reflects upon exactly that:
The road ahead is lonely when no one’s around
Still I wait for the sun to come shining down
Leaving this heavy weight that’s down on me
Don’t you know heaven waits
Why can’t you see
Time has no end!
And I can’t seem to find a friend!
Momentum picks back up with “Back To Me”. Up-tempo all the way, the song brings the type of all out youthful vigor of Stryper’s “Make Me Wanna Sing”: Chorus is nothing less than full on energy (spirited, vibrant and non-stop hook driven) while an underpinning bass line provides the foundation for everything to rest upon.
Ballad “Do You Love Me, the albums single and MTV hit, delivers an even joining of piano, keyboards and acoustic guitar. Another radio friendly melody shines as do plenty of polished vocal harmonies. Yes, a good song but the overall feeling left is that it is not necessarily the bands best effort or accurate representation of its true sound.
“New Birth” slowly fades in before moving ahead to a metal edged rhythm guitar. The albums title track reflects a darker feel in comparison to some here, encompassing a rumbling low end and stout heaviness but also plays up the notable hooks the band is best known. Of note is Vadala’s technical drum performance. The albums title track talks about starting life anew:
Say hello to the morning
Let your spirit rise
Good day to the evening don’t you realize
Playing life’s little game now
You must learn to follow the rules
So afraid will forget how to pick the life we choose
People out in the streets, come let’s join our hands
For together will build ourselves a New Birth…
Succinct heavy hitter “Left Behind” continues to find Mass in aggressive form. The song delivers quite the wallop – an authoritative rhythm section carries things front to back – with its knife-like guitar riffs but can also smooth out for the melodic sensibilities that are its sweeping chorus.
“Voyager (Look For The Edge)” finds Mass in top form. The song reinforces a sublime sound, classy and stately but also giving rise to more than ample impetus and fortitude in the process. Chorus is expertly done with a slight emotional flair and accenting backing vocals. Am I out of line to suggest comparison to Paul Cawley era Guardian? Again, some spiritual overtones are found in the lyrics:
Beneath the clouds we fight the sea
The captain’s dream is to fill our destiny
May God be with you and by your side
On this sail of Satan’s evil ride
To the center of the earth
To the middle of the world
To find the truth of which we have heard
Though our journeys long our ship is strong
As the men that sail aboard her
The power above watches over us
As the forces that rock the sea
“Day Without You”, ballad number two, is the better effort. This one comes across with added authenticity when compared to “Do You Love Me”, as if the band were more relaxed with the intent of delivering the all around heavier effort. A commercial, albeit not redundant, melody can also be found that would lend itself to potential radio play. What we have here is a basic love song:
If I should let you know that I need you
Would you smile or turn away?
I just wanted to say that all my dreams are made of you
Things you say come through your eyes
When I’m with you, feels so right
Never want to live a day without you
And if you leave what will I do, feel blue
Just want to spend my time with you
“Watch Her Walk” showcases a high energy melodic metal sound. With ripping guitar assaults, hi-octane tempo, hook driven mentality and some boogie metal touches, the song adds up to as strong a closing piece as you will find. Some fitting falsetto’s can be found from St. August as well. Put this on Rage Of Angels’ debut and it would sound right at home.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Too Far Gone” (3:52), “Crying Alone” (4:24), “Time” (3:42), “Back To Me” (4:25), “Do You Love Me” (3:35), “New Birth” (3:42), “Left Behind” (2:53), “Voyager (Look For The Edge)” (4:05), “Day Without You” (4:14), “Watch Her Walk” (4:01)
Louis St. August – Lead Vocals
Gene D’ltria – Guitars
Kevin Varrio – Bass
Joey “Vee” Vadala – Drums