Mass - Fighter (Retroactive) 1982/2010
"'84 Unchained" was originally released in 1984 as a self-titled, self-financed, self-released, four-song EP. The EP sold incredibly well for the band, selling over 10,000 vinyl copies and was the release that help garner some major label attention. The retitled "'84 Unchained" is the first official CD release of this classic EP. All four songs are classic Mass! "Looking Good" is a crunchy heavy metal romp that was pretty much exclusive to this EP, until it was released on the band's "Best Ones" compilation in 2000. "Still of the Night" is a more melodic track with a bit of a groove and was later used as the CD only bonus track on "Voices in the Night". The tracks "Holy One" and "Pedal to the Metal" were later remixed and released on the Enigma "Take You Home" album. However, those versions aren't quite as heavy and raw as these initial recordings. As with "Looking Good", both these songs are classic Mass. "Pedal to the Metal" is a speedy metal song, whereas "Holy One" is a slower, almost doomy song with a very somber and reverent vibe. The song actually builds and picks up momentum as it progresses. It is one of my favorite Mass songs of their entire catalog. The CD also includes a never before released demo track titled "Bones". The song was written by short-time bassist Rob Stephen, though according to the liner notes, Rob wasn't with the band long enough to actually record the track. Though I am one of those fanatics that has the original vinyl EP, it's nice to finally have these classic tracks on CD and properly mastered at that. The 2010 release also includes a 6-panel insert with lyrics, a short biography about the release by vocalist Louis St. August and a slightly modified cover.
I have an original sealed copy of the original four song vinyl EP. From what I have been told, in Europe and Germany this record is worth upwards of $200. Ouch! It is pictured above to the left of the reissue cover.
1. "Too Far Gone" (3:56)
"New Birth" was the first legitimate full-length studio album from Boston metal band Mass and was originally released on cassette and vinyl in 1985 on RCA Records. Mass are an American heavy metal band and "New Birth" is 100% heavy metal with a bad-ass, Boston attitude. There is a slight pop influence that runs throughout, but it's more in line with bands like Kiss, Starz or Sweet, than the bubblegum pop of the mid-to-late 1980's. Vocalist Louis D'Augusta has a high, soaring vocal style that is perfect for this style of melodic metal. There is one ballad included on the album. "Do You Love Me" is a ballad that is pretty typical for an 80's metal band. Frankly, I don't mind a ballad every now and then, so this doesn't bother me. Some metal purists seem to think it's a crime against the almighty name of Heavy Metal to record a ballad. "Do You Love Me" was the single for his album and did relatively well for the band, even getting them some play on MTV. However, it's the heavier material that I am most interested in. The title track, "Too Far Gone" and "Crying Alone" feature some smokin' guitar work, pounding drums and plenty of aggression. The album was produced by Tony Platt who had worked with bands such as Uriah
Heep, AC/DC, Motorhead and Iron Maiden, so "New Birth" is actually produced better than a lot of other lesser known metal bands from the mid-80's.
Mass - Take You Home (Medussa) 1988
1. "Pedal to the Metal"
A VERY difficult CD. to find. This darned little EP sells consistently for over $30 on eBay. I finally got this copy from a very generous trader named Andrew who was "getting rid of any secular music." OK! It took one indie CD. and a couple of old Christian metal demos to get it, but it's worth it. 1980's heavy metal with smooth as silk vocals. Gotta love it. Still have my vinyl copy of this as well.
"Voices in the Night" was produced by Michael Sweet (Stryper). The music is very similar in style to Stryper, especially the glossy production. 1980's heavy metal with those syrupy, sticky Sweet lyrics. You either loved it or hated it. I loved it and still like it to this day. Bought this on cassette as a new release. It took me forever to find a copy on CD. but I finally managed to get it in a trade with a guy from Canada. Didn't find out until the disc arrived that the CD. has an extra track that my crappy cassette didn't have.
Mass - Best Ones (fore reel) 2000
1. "Looking Good"
I had assumed that these guys had given up years ago, but apparently they have not. According to the liner notes, the band is working on a new studio album and never really broke up. "Best Ones" is an anthology of the band that includes songs from all four of their albums as well as two new songs, and the never before released "Bad Man's Reputation" from a recording session when the band was called Axes. The two new songs are from their "forthcoming" album. With the exception of the "Take You Home" and "Voices in the Night" material, this is the first time much of this material has seen the light of day on CD. "Best Ones" is a good career retrospective of a band who has toughed it out in the metal underground since the early 80's and is a good listen all the way through.
My dear friend Olaf asked vocalist Louis D' Augusta some questions about the band's lyrical approach. Here is what he had to say:
Hopefully this will answer some of your questions. I do try to write positive and uplifting songs. Do believe in God the Almighty but do not try to preach in my songs but I do try to send a positive message and hopefully they will figure it out.
Mass was formed in 1980 and took its name from the place of its birth, Massachusetts. Since that time, the band had released 5 albums in the 80ís of which "Voiced in the Night" ('89) is probably the most well-known, thanks in part to it being produced by Stryper's Micheal Sweet. Oddly enough, despite the band never disbanding and continuing to perform live through the 1990's, they never released an album during that period. In 2000 a best of release finally emerged containing two new songs. These new songs were said to be previews of the new CD. Well, seven years later and that new album finally appeared. Both new songs from "Best Ones" made it onto "Crack of Dawn", although "Seven Days" is listed as a bonus track. I am not sure why as it's placed in the middle of the track listing and seems to be on all versions of the CD, as far as I know. Unlike some of Mass' past releases, this one didn't hit me over the head immediately. It took me several listens to begin to really appreciate the subtle hooks and quality musicianship that the album offers. My favorite tracks are some of the heavier numbers. "Empty Soul" is one of the heaviest songs I've ever heard from Mass. This song is full-throttle, traditional heavy metal and one of the band's finest. The only minor flaw in the song is that in the middle I expected a big lead guitar break, but there was no lead to be found. "Magic Train" is a similarly heavy song with some harmonica work that gives the song a slight Southern rock feel, much like Blackfoot. "Monkey Brain", with it's odd title, will probably be a concert staple for years to come with it's somewhat silly, sing-along chorus. "Sweet Lady Jane" and "Leaving You" sound like they could have been written for the band's 1985 release "New Birth", although both are given a more modern sound due to the modern recording. The production throughout is quite good, with a modern recording that offers beefy guitar tones and a clear recording. One of the mellower moments is "Hello" which is an acoustic guitar driven song. This track has a big '70's vibe and offers a bit of variety to the otherwise hard rockin' album. Louis DíAugusta smooth, high voice is still and important part of this bands sound. He bears some resemblance to singers like Tony Harnel, Frank DiMino or even Boston's Brad Delp, but has a unique sound as well. I doubt anyone would confuse Louis for any other singer. The overall sound of the album isn't that far off from what you would expect from Mass. Thankfully they didn't try to update their sound and follow any musical trends. Mass have stuck to their musical guns and have released a solid slab of hard rock and heavy metal.
Mass have long been a band that offered a variety in their sound. They tend to balance traditional heavy metal with melodic hard rock and sentimental ballads. With their last album, "Crack of Dawn" they even had a more modern rock vibe, though still retaining their identity. On "Sea of Black" the band seem to have returned more to their roots, again maintaining that balance between thunderous traditional heavy metal, more melodic numbers and acoustic based ballads. This album is split pretty evenly amongst the heavy meta and softer moments. of course my favorite songs are the heavier tunes, which Mass excel at. The album opens with one of their best "Falling from Grace" a song that sits well besides classic numbers like "Too Far Gone" and "Pedal to the Metal". At times the songs here remind me of another underrated classic heavy metal band, Riot. "The Right Side" and "Justify" are similar heavy rockers. "Coming Home" balances a pleasant melodic nature with heavy guitars and D' Augusta power vocals, not unlike much of the material on the band's classic "Voices in the Night" album. "All Years Gone" is another melodic metal song. The other half of the album is more mellow in nature, offer soft, acoustic ballads. Of those, "More Than A Friend" and "Thru the Rain" are both heartfelt and touching. "Captain Jack" is an acoustic song as well, but is a short instrumental. The mix of heavy numbers with the more melodic numbers keeps the album interesting from beginning to end. Fans of Mass and classic heavy metal should be very pleased with this album. This fan is.
Mass - A Very Merry X-Mass (independent) 2010
Mass - When 2 Worlds Collide (Escape) 2018
It's been nearly a decade since Mass put out a full length album though they've been active doing shows, recording Christmas songs, etc. Still featuring two original members, vocalist Louis St. August and guitarist Gene D'Itria, as wll as longtime drummer Joey "Vee" Vadala, Mass returns with their eighth album "When 2 Worlds Collide".
Those hoping for the perfect follow-up to their classic "Voices in the Night", this album may well be the closest you will ever get. As usual, Mass ride the fence between heavy metal and melodic hard rock. This album has some of the heaviest numbers that Mass have done since "Pedal to the Metal" and "New Birth". Tracks like the ultra-heavy "Turn It Over", "Some Time Ago" and the speedy "Revenge of the Maiden" are pure heavy metal. Album opener "Just Can't Deny" is a double-bass driven melodic metal track that features a Deep Purple "Highway Star" feel complete with a wicked organ and guitar solo. Guitarist Gene D'Itria consistently unleashes some fiery guitar solos throughout.
There are also the more melodic rockers like "Just Can't Deny", "Revenge", and the title track, which closes out the the album. "Falling in Love" sounds like it could have been recorded for "Voices in the Night." Vocalist Louis St. August sounds as strong as he did back in the 80's. Another melodic number is "Stand Alone" which features Stryper's Michael Sweet delivering the guitar solo. The mandatory ballad is "Second Hand Rose" which features St. August's strong vocal delivery accompanied by a piano.
With 8-years between releases, "When 2 Worlds Collide" can be considered a come-back album, and a fine one at that.