In the Lady’s mission statement, she says that she “takes the obscure, and makes them obscure no more”. In the time I have been with Lady Obscure, I have found this to be one of the greatest joys of this work, coming across bands just starting out, be it with a debut EP or album that just kick ass then screaming about them all over the place. Watching people’s jaws drop as they first hear them, the “who the hell is this” look coming across their face, then as the music takes over and the head starts to bang, seeing that satisfied look on their face grow and grow. Great examples of this are THE DEADSTATION and Ocean Architecture, two bands who I have relentlessly pimped everywhere, and have had nothing but satisfied responses to. Now, I plan to add The Mascaron to that list.
The Lady did a piece on them back in November (she’s uncanny when it comes to uncovering these things), and since then they have finished their debut EP, Beginnings. The Mascaron is a multi-national project spanning from the UK to Latvia. The band was first conceived in 2010, and they solidified their current lineup in 2012, consisting of Phil Owens on vocals, Arturs Berzins on bass, Gints Grinbergs and Ivars Kalnins on guitars, and Inga Laurena on synths and electronics. Their Beginnings EP is a solid first step for this group who experiments with techniques of the melodic metal and djent styles to form a sound that though pretty aggressive, still manages to maintain a good deal of soul.
The album starts off with their debut single, Out of Time, and we are immediately introduced to the focus of their sound, the blending of the elements of the atmospheric and heavy. A soft waving note with exhaling beats starts the song off, softly layering the sounds upon each other. It doesn’t last long folks. The band was courteous enough to give us a trademark four count, then they launch off. A hard beating guitar/bass sets the tone, catchy but with more than enough authority to grab the attention. In the background though, Owens melodic voice still is carrying his own tones, then he switches character and pours on the growls. I do have to say here, both his clean and growl vocals are extremely competent. The growls hold tremendous power, but still maintain good clarity and sound. The clean vocals are off the hook, easy and melodic, but with power and strength when needed. It is a very solid song all the way through, a hell of a way to start.
Inside the Sun, the second track, shows a good deal more disparity between the heavy and atmospheric elements, but still maintains its cohesion. The only time it loses its pace is towards the end of the song when they back the hard chords with piano notes, which come through clunkier to me than anything else; the rest of the song is very well balanced. Serpents, it the one for me that really blended well. In some other spots on the album it might seem that there should be a gentle moment and a smack in the face comes, but everything in Serpents is timed wonderfully, the end product being one hell of a song. The Night Before takes over from where Serpents left off, still with the same pace and flow. I do feel that though their use of the two vocals to dictate different emotional aspects; they didn’t use the emotional power of the clean vocals to their fullest potential. A good example of this is the growling “why…..why…” a line that seems to me should be cried more than screamed, a task perfectly suited to Owens clean voice. The EP closes with A Future Era, an aggressive and relentless piece. There is one really special part towards the middle of the song when the song literally takes off on a running pace. Drums roll, layered electronic sounds dance in and out, the chords are paced and fierce, and the whole time has a stream of desperate clean vocals in the background. A wonderful job here, and it smoothly flows into the finale of the song, where they build up to a finish that shoots for epic but barely misses, a bit more power could have been used here, especially following that masterful middle segment.
The Mascaron has a lot of room to play with, and a tremendous amount of talent to make it work. Musically, they hit on most parts and lyrically it blends well with the music. Structurally they are headed in an awesome direction, the highs on this album truly are that, and there are plenty of them. I take tremendous comfort in knowing they are working on a full album, it will be interesting to say the least to see what time and hard work does to this band.