CD Review: MASS / Sea of Black
Reviewed by: Roger Scales
I remember buying “Take You Home” by MASS on cassette at Nuggets in Boston in 1987 when I was in college and was amazed at the talent that this band brought to the table at that time. Ripping guitar work from Gene D’Itria,
I remember buying “Take You Home”
1-Falling From Grace
2-All The Years Gone
3-The Right Side
5- Thru The Rain
6-All That I Needed
7-More Than A Friend
9-Ashes To Ashes
10-Till We Meet Again
11-Captain Jack (Instrumental)
12-Sea Of Black
I remember buying “Take You Home” by MASS on cassette at Nuggets in Boston in 1987 when I was in college and was amazed at the talent that this band brought to the table at that time. Ripping guitar work from Gene D’Itria, pounding drums from Joey “Vee” Vadala and superior vocals from Louis St. August. There were a lot of bands out at that time that had similar talent but few had great songs. MASS has always strived to write memorable, thought provoking songs that not only get you hooked but keep you there to the end; Sea of Black is no exception. In fact, maybe it is the exception – I think it’s their best work to date.
Starting off with the thunder of Falling from Grace (literally you hear a real thunderstorm when the tune starts out) Gene punches you in the face with a great fiery lead reminiscent of John Sykes on the song Children of The Night from the 1987 Whitesnake album Not sure if the goal of this song was a look at society’s adoration with celebrities and the fact that we have an appetite to see them fall (Tiger Woods, Ben Roethlisberger, Kobe Bryant) but that’s what I came away with after my first listen. Perfect song to kick off the album.
The Right Side is a slick ride of catchy lyrics and amazing vocals once again from Louis. What I found unique about this song was the ending almost sounded like an old episode of Doctor Who with its fade into that classic theme song that the BBC used to perfection going as far back as the early 1960’s. Fabulous guys, loved it.
Next we slow down the tempo a bit with All the Years Gone. The song starts off with Gene playing acoustic and Louis singing about a past relationship and looking back on it with some fondness yet having still moved on from it. The song does kick in a bit with some more electric guitar work and then slows down a bit right before it kicks up again. Very effective and never left me wanting one tempo more than the other.
I heard Thru the Rain maybe ten years ago for the first time and thought it was the best MASS song ever. I still feel that way. I’m glad the rest of the world outside New England can now share that same feeling. What really makes this song is the slick bass guitar work from Mike Palumbo. Fantastic haunting groove with great harmonies and catchy lyrics. I’m thrilled at the final mix. This song needs to be in the sequel to The Departed if it’s ever made.
The album takes another turn down a more mid tempo road with the song Coming Home. Similar to All the Years Gone it starts off acoustic with Gene and Louis then kicks in with more great harmonies and groove. I love the lyrics here dealing with anyone who travels for their job or anyone who is in a band and comes home to a loving family. Lots of folks can identify with that euphoria of coming home. Honestly I would have preferred the tempo a little quicker throughout maybe even having it electric throughout but what do I know? It’s still a killer track.
All That I Needed brings us MASS with another up tempo song dealing with relationships. Hard to walk away from someone even though you may have to; great drumming here from Joey Vee and love the Palumbo slide on the bridge here.
More Than a Friend is a very sad song dealing with the loss of anyone special in your life. The song shows off more acoustic work from Gene and soaring vocals from Louis. It’s a ouching ballad from MASS and at just over 3 minutes it’s over before I wanted it to be. That’s a sign of a great song to me.
Justify was the other older MASS song that they have had in their live set that I was looking forward to finally seeing recorded and I was not disappointed. Heavy melodic groove orientated this song has little something for everyone. It’s the hamburger helper MASS tune you have always wanted! I’ll take mine with extra cheese..
More great bass work on Ashes to Ashes from Palumbo and some solid drum work from Joey Vee highlight this one. Another older MASS favorite in their live set finally seeing the light of day recorded. You can (without question) see the Jimmy Page influence on Gene in this song.
Till We Meet Again again looks at a similar theme that More Than A Friend touches upon with the loss of a loved one. This one takes a more spiritual journey about seeing them in the afterlife and moving on from the loss while still here on Earth. Moving and gut wrenching I think the song emits the sentiment it was meant to by making you look down deep while still getting on with life.
Captain Jack is an instrumental acoustic number which shows off Gene’s softer side – if there actually is one? Also it’s the name of the Leave It to Beaver episode where the boys tried to raise an alligator in their bathroom, I feel no connection but just thought I’d mention it.
Sea of Black is the final cut and has a very Iron Maiden chanting, up-tempo song of evil, power, rage, and pain – great anthem rock here kids. Get the cd in your car turn this one up and you’ll have your kids banging their heads. The lead guitar here sort of has a Zakk Wylde feel to it does it not Gene?? Nice job here.
Folks just do yourself a favor and don’t take my word for it. Use this review as a guide only. You’d be doing yourself a great injustice if you’re a fan of solid melodic rock by not picking up Sea of Black as soon as possible.
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