City of Dis
posted on 12/2004 By:
Different is good. As metal fans, we call the roads less traveled home. Sometimes though, even the unusual becomes pretty usual. Some fans like it that way and have very little tolerance for things that fall outside the lines of conventional metal. But I’d like to think that most of us love music enough to welcome some variety within the variety. Unless you do, The Mass just isn’t your band. Exhibit A: saxophone. Not exactly a word that elicits visions of church burnings and disemboweling virgins. The sax is an integral part of the band’s identity, and while it’s not the single most defining component of their sound, it’s uncommon enough to give the band a distinct personality, a trait many bands lack.
City of Dis is the debut album from Oakland, California’s The Mass, who combine thrash, math metal, hardcore, and jazz into an artful amalgam. The lurching, jagged stop/go riffing of Dillinger Escape Plan is the order of the day, but the riffs themselves are typically more thrash based. The band is amazingly tight and performs with a great deal of precision. This is topped with the manic hardcore vocals of Matt Waters, who also plays saxophone. The sax is present in every song, but not throughout the songs. Instead, Waters picks his moments and provides accompaniment in the style a dual guitarist, or contributes wildly frenetic solos, which sound aggressive and spastic enough to put to rest any doubts regarding the testicular fortitude of the band. If Morphine played metal it would sound something like this.
Part of the charm of City of Dis is its oddness. Not like Mr. Bungle odd, but a more subtle uniqueness. The titles themselves provide ample evidence, and believe it or not, usually prove good descriptors for the tone of the songs. “Treadmill of Suffering” and the seven minute psychotic freak out “We Enslaved Elves To Build Our Death Machine” are perfect examples. The band get Slint-styled arty in a few places, like the beginning of “Marca Dos Invernos” and “Major Strip”, which also has Mike Patton in Fantomas-like gang chanting and nonverbal, voice as instrument theatrics. More often than not, however, The Mass deliver angular, off kilter grooves in a kind of math thrash. Songs like “La Porc”, “Hex By Hex”, and “Trapped Under a Ice” display the band’s ability to manage crunch, technique, and individuality.
There will be those who are suspicious of the metal-ness of the saxophone, or are generally metalcore-phobic who will not give this album a chance. That’s too bad. Don’t let the word hardcore scare you off, these guys combine elements from several genres and subgenres of music, and do so with creativity and style. The band’s website offers up an mp3 of “Treadmill of Suffering.” Check it out. Aren’t you ready for something different?
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