READ, LISTEN, BUY! 7.6 is average independent rating (from 6 to 9.5) MONEY IS T
ROUGH EDGE (USA) 2 reviews
Dark Mass has re-released their excellent CD, "Dark Mass Medium," in this special edition that contains three new tracks, plus a DVD. As they say, you can't get too much of a good thing so this Special Edition is welcome.
The three new tracks are: "Blazing Sides of Insanity," a blistering guitar piece that works as a fiery lead-in for the crushing "Neon Revelations"; the strangely named "Possession Ocean Flaming Shores," a track that fits "Dark Mass Medium" so well it was probably originally recorded for the set and "Tearing the Wings Off," a milder and fitting end piece for the CD.
The DVD contains four inexpensively shot but entertaining videos (three of which feature monstrous growling vocals!). It's amazing to watch these guys play! Talk about fast and furious!
Bottom line: You really don't need to pick up this Special Edition if you've already purchased the original edition of "Dark Mass Medium" but, if you're a fan of the band and this CD, it's nice to have the extras included here.
The problem with too many instrumental albums is that they don't tell their story as well as a CD with vocals does. That's understandable - for obvious reasons, music alone isn't as clear as are lyrics made up of words.
That's where Dark Mass succeeds where others fail. Despite the fact that "Dark Mass Medium" is a pure instrumental album, each track is full of its own character, its own style and its own unique power. This is a tribute to the musicians who make up the band as well as the people behind the console who have made "Dark Mass Medium" sound so crisp, clear and balanced.
"Dark Mass Medium" begins with the title track, a fast-paced, driving song reminiscent of the Megadeth sound. The balance of the CD follows suit - each song bearing a full-blooded character of its own. Track 3, "Guyee Shoomliat," almost sounds like the theme to a Jerry Bruckheimer action adventure film, while the piano opening of "Fires of Euphora" has a classic, haunting sound that then gallops into an irresistible, almost Gothic piece.
Musicianship and production are the real stars here. The members of Dark Mass display dizzying levels of varied talent. The guitar solos are swift and razor-sharp, but never step outside the realm of what works for the song. The drums and bass keep the music steady while being allowed a little room to explore themselves. And the additional instruments, a la the aforementioned piano, are thrown in not to show us how great the band members can play, but because they fit the tone and attitude of the music.
The production is stellar throughout, especially for a self-produced CD. "Dark Mass Medium" is ready to be pressed and distributed by a major label as is. No post-demo tweaking is necessary.
This is one of those CDs that you're thrilled to stumble upon - great music from a band you've never heard of ... but that you can't wait to hear more from.
METAL TEAM UK
If a band chooses to avoid the services of a vocalist, they either have friends who are terrible at karaoke, or are so proud of their musical compositions that they can’t bear to detract from them with a posing, groupie-devouring frontman. In the case of Ukraine’s Dark Mass, I strongly suspect the latter situation is true, and with good cause, as guitarist D. Suvor has some seriously nimble fingers, and “Dark Mass Medium” showcases his fretboard mastery in a dizzying variety of ways.
The initial impression from opener “Dark Mass Medium” is of a band grounded in thrash, as the agile punchy leads inspire some involuntary nodding of the head despite not being the most sophisticated of creations. As the album wears on, however, although Dark Mass come back to thrash with a vengeance on “Extreme Neuron Noise”, it becomes clear that they have a dazzling array of influences, and much more complexity than first meets the eye. “Blazing Sides of Insanity” is acoustic, warm and wistful, whereas “Guylee Shoomliat” starts with a symphonic black metal kind of aura, but grows into a bassy, grooving monster. Melodic death and power metal riffs, leads and ideas also permeate the song-writing, from the subtle warmth of “Fires of Euphoria” to the crunchy rhythm work that underscores “Egocentric Extraversion”.
The dominant musical movement informing “Dark Mass Medium”, however, is without a doubt prog, which offers the most space for the confident experimentalism of Suvor’s guitar work. “Possession Ocean Flaming Shores” (clearly from the Dimmu Borgir school of throwing words together until you get a song title) is definitely the most progressive track on offer, with jazz piano explorations and epic guitar leads looping through keys and patterns- a real standout- but the progressive tinges everything the band do.
Unfortunately, some of the enjoyment value of this album is deadened by a distinctly average production, which obfuscates the rhythm guitar and draws attention to how plastic and lifeless the over-triggered drums are- for example on “Comets of Black Cosmothrash”. No doubt this was recorded on a budget of my hourly wage, and so it’s churlish to argue with it, but the listener always deserves fair warning of the faults of the product on offer, and here the compressed, suffocated sound can at times be off-putting, the hemmed-in drums infuriating.
Dark Mass seem to have only the slightest underground presence, but with the skills of Suvor and their impressive song-writing talents a bit of exposure would surely result in them claiming critical acclaim. Perhaps they need vocals to be ultimately successful in market terms, but it’s a mark of their strength that I didn’t feel their lack too sharply whilst my attention was held by the narrative tracks of “Dark Mass Medium”. I’d probably ignore the tags the band give themselves- ‘hypermetal’ and ‘cosmothrash’ being freaking ridiculous names anyway- and instead say that this is interesting, bold and talented. A flawed album, but a unique one, and sometimes that’s more important.
METAL RULEZ (USA)
One thing you can’t accuse these guys of, and that’s lack of ambition and self-belief. Imagine, if you will, a progressive death/thrash metal instrumental album. Dark Mass from Ukraine hyperbolically name their style of music Progressive Symphonic Hyper Metal (PSMH). Yup.
The thing is, this is a pretty damn good album. It’s unique at least. The guitars are top-notch, as good as you’ll find in any above-decent thrash-prog band. There’s some great shred licks as well as some melodic lead lines. But the imagination and complexity! Piano intros bash into heavy neck-swirling death riffs, which are mixed together with thrash lines, and interspersed with light acoustic (guitar and piano) passages that smell faintly of jazz, and…bass slapping? An entire album of this, I don’t quite know how to describe it. This is definitely left-of-centre, and I feel like my horizons have been expanded today.
Apparently they had a vocalist at one point, but (and I’m not making this up), he drank too much during a gig, was possessed by a demon, and had to have the shit kicked out of him by his concerned bandmates. Is it tongue-in-cheek? Are they taking the piss? Have a read of their website at least, it’s entertaining if nothing else. This is a seriously surprising (good?) album, and I need a couple more listens to fully decide. Right now it’s tending towards being fucking good. I think I might be a convert to this Progressive Symphonic HyperMetal thing, although I’ll refrain from using it in normal conversation for a while.
It’s refreshing is what it is. There’s an utter lack of regard for convention. I wish I were a better musician so that I could analyse this album for you and break it down bit by bit. But my ears tell me that if nothing else, a shitload of work went into this album – they have some truly good ideas. Being in Ukraine can’t do much for your profile level though, when the nearest drummer was apparently in Moscow.
I’ve made up my mind. This is seriously fucking good. Vocals would have been a distraction from such strong songs and such intrepid ideas. Readers can check them out at their website, which is on the sidebar to the right – and if you’ve heard any other bands like them at all, you’re welcome to drop me some mail and tell me all about it.
EDIT: I’ve just put it on repeat again…
Self-claimed HYPER METALlians (a new genre is born!) Dark Mass hail from the Ukraine Republic and perform what I would define as complex and melodic thrash with scents from "Rust in Peace" era Megadeth first and foremost. The guitarwork is very intricate, with high-speed picking and brushy rhythms, and the dense production of the same is right up my alley! THICK 'n' THRASHY! It's all instrumental but it doesn't present a problem as these guys seemingly have no trouble writing memorable melody after memorable melody to fill out eventual "should have vocals" passages.
The Dark Mass guys have managed to create something of their own with "Dark Mass Medium". They are all absolutely stunning musicians and have even managed to make the programmed drums work for the music, instead of against it as usually happens. The seven tracks on this demo album all offer a unique musical experience, ranging from speedy thrash to jazzy interludes and beautiful piano moments.
I recommend any fan of complex metal to look up Dark Mass and I hope these guys soon will get the attention they so clearly deserve. "Dark Mass Medium" will end up high on my 'best of the year' ranking when 2004 comes to pass! Fantastic!
3. DEADTIDE (USA)
Dark Mass are technical instrumental thrash, and they show their creativity very well on Dark Mass Medium. These Ukrainians absolutely shred their fretboards like Cynic and latter-day Death on meth one moment, and the next they're jamming a mid paced groove, but the transition is smooth and seamless. If you stop listening for even a moment you'll miss something, though it never feels like there's that kind of listening pressure when the disc's spinning. Moreover, not once through the seven tracks did I find it irksome that there were no vocals. Dark Mass don't need a vocalist, because they really let their virtuoso guitars do all the talking for them. This band needs to get signed and fast, because their material is fucking amazing.
METAL REIGNS (USA)
I do believe this is my first review of a Ukrainian band and glad I got to hear it. Dark Mass is not your typical metal band. They have dubbed themselves as Hyper Metal. Not sure if I have heard that one yet. The closes thing would be Kataklysm's Nothern Hyper Blast. Dark Mass is definitely nothing like that. To my surprise they are an instrumental band. Which is quite unique in this day and age.
Although the CD isn't the best produced one you will hear, it does sound very good. This is a guitarist's type of album. It has some cool thrashy rhythmic pieces, but has some very good progressions and melody parts that make it almost atmospheric. The solos are outstanding, and you can tell the guitarist's really know's how to play. The only disappointment might be the drum sound and that is about all I can find that might be a negative. The guitar tones aren't really as full and foreceful as I would like to hear them, but the playing more than makes up for anything lacking in the tones. I would say it's an eclectic mixture of Melodic Death, Progressive, and Thrashy metal all rolled into one without having any vocals. So far I have listened to the album three times in a row, and enjoy it more with each listen.
The intro to the third track, Guyee Shoomliat is one of the many things that standout to me. The guitar playing is awesome (acoustic piece) leading into the song. Something I am impressed with, as well as the rest of the guitar playing on the album. Another impressive element is the piano work in the following track, Fires of Euphoria. Not so much in the playing, but how it is used. As I was mentioning about guitar tones earlier. I have noticed they use several different tones in various pieces. This album is quite amazing from a musician's stand point. Though it might be hard for an average listener to get into it. I would recommend this album highly to anyone looking for some well composed music. This is an album you could listen to repeatedly. Take a chance with Dark Mass and inject yourself with a Hyper Metal dosage you can only hear on Dark Mass Medium.
POWER PACKER ZINE (USA)
I have had more than my share of reviewing true demos and it never ceases to amaze me how humble Unsigned bands are. Many apologize for the lack of professional printing or the lack of sound quality - but if you were to ask me, such apologies are not necessary especially such band is DARK MASS.
You see, the band didn`t send out a professionally printed demo, nor does the sound quality speak of money. DARK MASS lets the music speak for itself - and boy did it yell out to be noticed. There is a professional talent among these guys, not to mention a great use of the English language: "Egocentric Extraversion" and "Extreme Neuron Noise"? Half the bands in the US don`t have half the imagination to think of such cool song titles, yet a band from Ukraine does? I`m impressed. I`m also impressed with the music itself: a non-vocals progressive metal style that would feel right at home on US labels such as Inside Out or Sensory.
Yes, you read right: non-vocals, as you will not find a single one in within Dark Mass Medium, which I hope The band works on in future because vocals would have greatly enhanced the music.
But it is what it is, a band knowing they have the talent to make music with lots of creativity. I`m interested to hear where the band goes from here and also curious to know where the band wants to go.
Favorite track: "Guyee shoomliat".
An instrumental Metal/Thrash band from Russia who come all the way from Russia. Thus is triumphant playing throughout with plenty of finger tappin' and and other excellent guitar tricks you'd expect to hear from guys like Kirk Hammett, Yngwie J. Malmsteen.
It's rather like having a Megadeth album, where a guitar takes the place of Dave Mustaine's vocal lines. Seven pieces in all with plenty of highlights and lets not forget that macine gun drumming too especially on 'Neon Revelations' coupled in with that Speedin' axe assaulting. Many a highlight includes the piano led 'Fires of Euphoria' that duels up with thrash rhythm a plenty or the pumping Satriani/Vai like closer 'Comets of Black Cosmothrash'.
Good to hear the instruments do the talking for a change.
METAL BITE (USA)
MetalBite Review by Tom
Nowadays it is pretty hard to find a band that willfully plays music that is somewhat hard to digest, demands numerous listening sessions, or is very interesting. Most bands go for music that’s popular, gets played on the radio at the moment or is just plain, simple and will sell well. Dark Mass chose not to be one of those boring, copycat, uninteresting bands, and I must say that even though it took a while to get used to, their “Dark Mass Medium” became one of my favorite albums.
Sound was the first thing that I’ve noticed. It reminded me a little bit of the Eastern European thrash bands from 80’s. Most of them played very different tunes back then but sounded very similar to each other, simply because of the same studios/garages they’ve used. Ukrainians bring back the garage sound but musically they’re eons away from 80’s bands that I had in mind. I don’t know much about recording of this album, or people that were involved because information was not given to us, but listening to the album brought back some good memories of the bands I listened to growing up. First song on the album wouldn’t be my choice for an album opener but that doesn’t change the fact that after minute or so it got very interesting in a progressive way and kept me listening all the way to the end. Not only to the end of the song but to the end of the album. Very little space between the songs makes it virtually effortless but the real reason is how wonderfully fascinating, inspired and astounding this album simply is. I must mention here that there are NO vocals on this recording. I don’t know why they chose not to have a vocalist in their ranks, but it doesn’t stop them from delivering some most outstanding instrumental storytelling. Lots of excellent guitar shredding, plenty of amazing solos, keyboard intros, eerie backgrounds, classical guitar, piano, jazzy drums and rumbling bass are only some of many ingredients of this strange medium. What glues the whole thing together is the timing. Nothing is too long or too short; nothing is too fast or too slow. Guitars, drums, keyboard, bass all in perfect combination and amount. All balanced and mixed together in exquisite harmony.
I can’t ever get bored with this record. Every spin gives me something new, something I’ve missed before or something that was kept in a background and comes out after few listens. Every time this album ends I just sit there waiting for next song that isn’t there. I can’t stop myself from pressing play again and try to find more and more that’s been hidden from me. Whenever “Dark Mass Medium” ends I have a feeling of something overlooked or missed, I have a constant feeling that I need to listen to it again. For me this album ends way too quickly. It’s my only complaint.
Categorical Rating Breakdown:
Rating: 7.6 out of 10
BLOOD DAWN (GERMANY)
Fans etwas härterer und experimenteller Frickelei dürften bei dieser ukrainischen Formation hellhörig werden, welche nach zwei Mini-Demos nun ihr erstes Demo-Album auf die Menschheit loslässt. Diese ordentlich produzierte Eigenproduktion bietet zwar enorm technisches, aber stets nachvollziehbares Instrumentalmaterial, das sich zwischen den vier Stützpfeilern Thrash-, Death-, Black- und Prog Metal bewegt. Wildes Fingerknotengeriffe, verdrehte Harmonien, wunderbare Melodien, eigenwillige Breaks und wieselflinke Tapping-Orgien sind nur wenige der nennbaren Elemente, denn hier passiert einfach so viel, dass es eine wahre Freude ist, immer wieder neue Details zu entdecken.
Verschiedenste Bandnamen wie EMPEROR, WATCHTOWER, NOCTURNUS, DEATH, OXIPLEGATZ und BELIEVER schwirren durch die komplexen Gehirnwindungen meines Zerebralsystems und sollen ebenfalls nur eine rudimentäre Vorstellung von dem geben, was den Herrschaften so an Inspirationsquellen gedient haben mag.
Bei aller Technik wirken DARK MASS niemals aufdringlich und selbstbefriedigend, sondern wissen mit ihren sieben Kompositionen eine gute halbe Stunde lang überzeugend zu demonstrieren, wie bildhaft man akustische Lautmalerei betreiben kann. Sicherlich wird diese Art von Musik mal wieder nur Minderheiten erreichen und ansprechen, aber diese wenigen Maniacs dürften mit "Dark Mass Medium" eine kleine, funkelnde Undergroundperle ihr Eigen nennen. Interessenten setzen sich per Mail mit der Band in Verbindung.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I just love the first line of their bio that came with the CD - "Dark Mass was established in 1997 beyond the external borders where marasmus is merged with reality and illusions are terminated (Ukraine)." - and here was me thinking that was Leith!
The first thing to tell you is that this is a purely instrumental album, and you don't get many of them to the metal pound these days.
And there's usually a very good reason for that. Most instrumental albums are boring. Which makes it all the better when something like this comes along. Because this is actually rather good!
They call themelves 'hyper-metal' but most of the music operates in a twilight zone between mid period Megadeth, driving soundtracks and gothic rock. Probably best illustrated by the title track and my particular favourite, "Fires of Euphoria".
The musicianship is excellent, but they don't fall into the trap of putting style before substance, often the fate of instrumental widdlers. The solos may be plentiful but they're in no way self-indulgent. The one flaw is the drumming, which sounds more programmed than real. Either that or the drum booth in the studio is diabolical!
If you're only experience of metal instrumentals are "Orion", and "The Call Of Ktulu", then you could be in for a very pleasant surprise.
Progressiver, instrumentaler Metal aus der Ukraine - so viel Information in einem Satz! Instrumental? Ja! Aus der Ukraine? Tatsächlich! Nun, solche Exoten sind auf dem ersten Blick natürlich sowieso immer interessant, aber DARK MASS haben auch auf lange Sicht was zu bieten.
Ich bin restlos begeistert, einerseits vom musikalischen Können, andererseits vom ungeheuer intensiven Hörerlebnis.
Instrumentalscheiben sind wirklich nicht allzu oft mein Ding, aber was die Ukrainer hier abliefern, ist progressiver Metal par excellence.
Seien es die MALMSTEEN-artigen Gitarren, die atmosphärischen, dennoch teilweise absolut verrückten Klavierklänge oder die vertrackten, leider künstlichen Drums, die eindeutig gesampelt und deswegen der einzige Störfaktor an einer ansonsten guten Produktion (für eine Demo-CD) sind. DARK MASS verstehen es, den Hörer mit ihrer Vielschichtigkeit und ihrem besonderen Hang zur Atmosphäre auf eine intensive, musikalische Reise zu nehmen, die nach nicht mal einer halben Stunde leider schon beendet ist.
Dem einen oder anderen wird mit Sicherheit das Fehlen des Gesangs auf den Magen schlagen, ich hoffe inständigst, dass diese äußerst talentierte Band einen geeigneten Mann findet, der zu diesen abstrusen und begeisternden Melodien das Tüpfelchen auf dem i setzt. Alle Labels können schon mal die Notizblöcke zücken ...
Anspieltipps: das gesamte Werk
TRANSCENDING THE MUNDANE (USA)
As the album opens, I suddenly believe in HYPER METAL. What is it? I don't know-some bizarre combination of technical, thrash, and progressive? On the title track, I'm not hearing the death and black yet, but that's OK. These solos by Suvor are fucking unbelievable.
This band does not have melodic grace, but it has incredible ideas and real guts and most importantly, its own sound. There are bands that have been around for 15 years-and not in Ukraine-that have none of those. The band introduces a doom element at the 4:00 mark. They are still experimenting and the ending is totally bizarre. "Neon Revelations" is weird, like Jerk-Off Tech. Not a very populated genre.
There are actually New Wave sounds here, like a decade washing up against Kiev's gates 20 years late. Once they get going, this is incredible. Oh no, this is not Bolt playing drums! It's really well done programming, however. God, listen to Suvor's leads here. There's like four tracks of him wailing with screaming licks going on at once.
And then it suddenly and bizarrely ends again. The beginning guitars to "Guyee Shoomliat" are absolutely beautiful. Suddenly, you can hear their Motherland. Remember what I said about them not having melodic grace? I was wrong. But the drum programming here is not as good-clearly this would sound SO much better with a real drummer.
Whoa-listen to the bizarre bass and key-popping work at the 1:30 mark.
I'm hearing what I believe are twin mandolins later on, and then some Yngwie-esque lead work that is stunning. "Fires Of Euphoria" starts out with chamber music on a very crude sounding keyboard. This one is not as strong-almost sounding like older, less mature material. And the jarring endings are now starting to annoy. I like "Egocentric Extraversion" much better off the bat. This sounds like some bizarre cousin of Rush, with wonderful, open-body acoustic playing. It's a massive jam, with a lot of guitar and keyboard trading of licks. Mix that with spiraling tech metal and you've got the idea. Unfortunately, the same weaknesses stand out-fake-sounding drums and poor keyboard sounds. "Extreme Neuron Noise" is better done, with seamlessly integrated drums and humongous-sounding guitars in both ears. This is really active tech, and beautifully played. Get these guys a drummer!
Closer "Comets Of Black Cosmothrash" sounds like raw, 80s thrash metal. This is much uglier, and more direct. It's tightly played, intense and the programmed drums sounds are wonderful. Why couldn't every song have sounded like this? Ukraine, Ukraine: The creativity and fearlessness here is admirable.