Sunday at Tech Fest!! I'm tired and a bit weak due to lack of sleep and the fact that it is in fact the 'beginning of the end' of a pretty hectic weekend. However, the day had a great start and Mask Of Judas was responsible for injecting me with new energy.
Remember that scene in Terminator 2 where the mercury man impales Arnold to the floor and leaves him there, but he's able to kick back into gear and save the day? Something to that effect...
Mask of Judas plays a groove based Metal with a very technical approach. Their music demands your attention but it gives you that urge to start headbanging thanks to the crushing rhythm and fat sound. The guitar work was intricate but versatile, allowing feeling and contributing to the tight foundation set by the drums and the bass guitar.
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There was a general organic approach to the whole performance and when it came time to interview them I was told that with the exception of one of the guitar players, the whole band normally gets together in the rehearsal studio for regular practices. I know that nowadays bands are taking advantage of technology, sharing files and relying on the computer with great results, but the chemistry between the musicians in Mask Of Judas was evidently due to a personal/musical interaction among the band members.
Did I mention that Mask Of Judas is fronted by a powerful female vocalist? Jo Challen is charismatic and has a great vocal ability, with both melodic singing and death Metal growls, which have been compared to Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy in the past (as I was told the day before).
However, Jo allows herself to avoid an overly male(ish) attitude and her feminine charisma and personality drive her performance as well. Mask Of Judas relate to their music in a particularly personal way, easing the connection between the band and the audience.
I certainly enjoyed the show, had the chance to have an interesting conversation with them and now I have their latest release 'Axis', which stays true to the organic nature and versatility of the band's live show.
The guitars are played flawlessly on the record as well, and it is refreshing that the guys introduce some pretty cool riffs that rely on chords played on the higher strings. While some of the bands that use downtuned or 7/12/200 string guitars gravitate towards the low end of the spectrum during rhythm sections Mask Of Judas also play intricate patterns using higher pitched chords, incorporating some unusual notes and openingfrequency-space for the bass and the drums.
These, along with the technical leads and low rhythm will give you the impression that the guitar players are travelling up and down the neck of their instruments on every song. Even if some of the riffs have a special focus on rhythm, the intention to stay musical and expressive remains intact, especially during the guitar solos, which are still fast and technical but very melodic.
I do have to mention that the complexity of their music sometimes results in the vocals competing with the instruments for the spotlight a little bit. Jo's voice is emotional through the whole record and there are moments where the instruments and the voice support each other in a fantastic way, achieving a sense of purpose and lots of 'feeling', such as the nice interplay during the guitar solo in 'Endeavor' and the building section before it.
However, during certain moments I thought it was a little busy and I was thinking that there would be nothing wrong with sticking with something simpler in order to let the song breathe and give the vocals someextra room.But those are minor details and I am pretty sure that lots of fans of the genre will love these sections due to their complexity and will take it as a challenge instead.
'Axis' has five songs and I really enjoy the fact that when it comes to a band playing interesting music a mini album would normally give you great songs, no fillers and you end up wanting more and looking forward to their next release. With Mask Of Judas, that is most certainly the case. I will be listening to 'Axis' for quite a bit and I am pretty sure that picking my favorite songs will be difficult. However, I am already picking my favorite moments, riffs and solos.
During the interview I conducted with them at Tech Fest we talked about their influences, their creative process and their experience playing the festival, but also about some of their individual inclinations like 80s Glam Rock, African aesthetics, Wayne's World, Coheed and Cambria, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jazz Fusion, Terminator 2, Back to The Future, Indian Classical music and so on...
Are all of those things reflected in their art? Maybe not evidently, but you can always tell when a band is open minded by just listening to them, not only when they play but also when they have a chat. They'll be playing Bloodstock this year so if you're going you better check them out. In the meantime, listen to ‘'Axis', watch the video, and check out the audio interview below.