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Perfect Picture of Wisdom and Boldness

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Album Review

Oakland's the Mass rarely lose sight of their native Bay Area's thrash metal legacy, but, above all else, 2005's sophomore Perfect Picture of a Wisdom and Boldness reiterates their intention to remain impossible to categorize. Like System of a Down (to name but the most obvious and successful experimental metal act out there), the Mass like to spice up their reliably heavy assault with numerous neighboring (hardcore, punk, death metal) and more distant musical styles (ambient, progressive, even jazz!) — any and all of them liable to stop and turn on a dime before shooting off into unexpected new directions. Unlike the SoCal Armenians, the Mass employ a saxophone on most every track, betray not a speck of nu-metal in their genetic makeup, and further ignore commercial aspirations by allowing themselves as much as seven, eight, or even nine minutes to develop their unorthodox ideas. By the same token, its arguable whether the quartet could come up with enough good hooks to compete with radio-sized avant-metal, as typically convoluted material like "This Is Your Final Dream" and "Little Climbers of Nifelheim," although never less than interesting (particularly thanks to that aggressive sax), is rarely irresistible, either. Along with additional wacky workouts like "Cloven Head" and "Corpsewielder" (both of which waste much time in roundabout riffing and staccato picking exercises before evolving into slow majestic power chords), they provide plenty of instant fireworks, but leave precious few handholds for listeners to hang on. In fact, they wind up calling attention to the merits of what rare examples of linear songwriting are on hand — be it the two-minute grindcore freak-out "Gas Pipe," or the gently flowing ambient jazz highlight "Meditation on Some Carcass," where Matt Waters' considerable improvisational prowess on sax is given quite the showcase. Overall, however, Perfect Picture of a Wisdom and Boldness excels mostly on the originality of its vision, than its actual realization — though that may well be in sight on future efforts.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Experimental metal band the Mass hails from Oakland, CA, and mixes ample quantities of thrash, punk, and hardcore with nuances ranging from math-metal to jazz into an avant-garde stew they like to call "indie-metal." Founded in 2002 by Matt Waters (vocals, saxophone), Tom O'Donnell (guitar), Matthew Solberg (bass), and Tyler Cox (drums), the band quickly parlayed local acclaim into a deal with Crucial Blast, which first reissued...
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Perfect Picture of Wisdom and Boldness, The Mass
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