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Dark Mass - "Dark Mass Medium" (CD)

Dark Mass - "Dark Mass Medium" CD cover image

"Dark Mass Medium" track listing:

1. Dark Mass Medium
2. Blazing Sides Of Insanity
3. Neon Revelations
4. Guyee Shoomliat
5. Fires Of Euphoria
6. Egocentric Extraversion
7. Extreme Neuron Noise
8. Comets Of Black Cosmothrash
9. Possession Ocean Flaming Shores
10. Tearing The Wings Off

Reviewed by on March 6, 2008

"Musically this album is great, but when compared to a prog album like Symphony X's latest release it puts things in perspective"

From the underground of Ukraine comes self-described "Progressive Symphonic HyperMetal" band Dark Mass with their repackaging of an earlier version of "Dark Mass Medium." "Progressive Symphonic HyperMetal" sounds pretentious, right? It's actually not a bad way to describe "Dark Mass Medium," but for all the wrong reasons. It sounds cool, spreads multiple genres but is really an idea that needs some focus.

The first track - the first riff even - had me wiping the smirk from my face. I admit that before I'd even loaded the CD up I had an expectation of another basement black metal routine; another token underground band for my collection. But with a sonic blast of current-era Satyricon with a technical twist, I was legitimately impressed with what I heard, not to mention amazed at the production a small band from Ukraine could manage. I was now eager to hear what "Progressive Symphonic HyperMetal" vocals sounded like. Half way into the song, a solo that impressed my pants off jumps out, leaving me wondering if this was really a guitar virtuoso's side project, but I'm still waiting on those vocals. By the end of the third track I horridly realized that this is an entirely instrumental album, and to top that off, drums are all processed midi sounds. Sigh.

I listen to and love many instrumental acts such as Jason Becker, Michael Romeo, Spastic Ink and more. However, all of these bands manage to fill their music so thoroughly that the lack of vocals becomes part of the master plan. "Dark Mass Medium," on the other hand, sounds through and through like an album that a producer forgot to lay vocal tracks on. Given that "Dark Mass Medium" is a repackaging of a demo that came out in 2004, you would think the band would have gone to the small trouble of remedying that by now, and that flaw alone makes me treat this album harsher than I would any demo. A telling sign of the band's lack of development is that towards the end of the album it almost entirely steers in a prog direction, leaving the listener wondering what happened to the industrial blackened metal that had once been. The only bands that can ever get away with genre swapping over an album are the likes of Crotchduster and Weird Al. A good example is the track "Comets of Black Cosmothrash," which isn't as half as cool as the awesome title, instead hiding what is really a hard rock song befitting of Joe Satriani.

Instead of a revolutionary new sound, "Dark Mass Medium" really comes off as a half formed effort in which the band has no focused idea where to put their talent. Musically this album is great, but when compared to a prog album like Symphony X's latest release, it puts things in perspective as to the infancy of "Dark Mass Medium."

However, beating down hard-working bands from the underground is hardly my motto, which is why despite the low score, this album has some huge plus points to look out for in future efforts. The guitar playing is amazing (notably the traditional acoustic tracks), and overall the compositions and recording were through and through professional. Interestingly the album is accompanied by a DVD with footage of some local shows and some great drunken footage. This kind of thing is always a great touch for fans and it seems Dark Mass will get all the support they need from the Ukrainian underground.

Highs: Some great virtuoso and compositional talent

Lows: No vocals + Midi drums = an album lacking in substance

Bottom line: An unfinished effort from a talented band

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)