CD Review

Mask – “Heavy Petal”

By Marcus Pan

Heavy PetalMask is very pretty. From the bright flarey cardboard fold out, wonderfully put together by Globe Music Media Arts - a label whom aspires to a much higher aesthetic than your standard jewel-case-fold-out blasé of media, to the brilliant press kit to the ethereal combinations of classical string and modern electronics on Heavy Petal - it's all very pretty. But it's pretty in a nightmare. Dark Murmur for example opens smooth and layered, but a hum of darker aesthetics in the background build to a haunting melody creating a strange and wonderful juxtaposition that becomes "pretty in the dark."

Which is a strange feeling really – if its dark how can you tell something is pretty? Well for one thing the light cello of Marvin Ayres keeps the sound earthy and natural, but the electronic darker tones and haunting vocals of Sonja Kristina build into it to create a far reaching element of subtle fears and anguish. Tribal rhythms and beats drive tracks like Global Incantation along, a ley line of aural imagery that is anchored to the earth for its rhythm but clouded in a post-storm sky for its melody.

Live Mask performances combine elements of projected imagery to lay against the ethereal atmospheric music creating a stronger element together than they would alone. After the haunting ambient openings of Dark Murmur and Global Incantation, Paean brings us to a more pleasant space with subtle classical strains and slow chanting female vocals, a may-pole dance in the early morning of a spring day off on some other-world where the landscape is purple and the sky green.

We continue like this for a little while, the haunting nature of the opening left behind as you spread your wings into a less sinister environment where Sonja croons beside you in her first outing on Heavy Petal as a singer rather than a chantress. Fall So Hard reminds me of work by Delerium[1] or a much more laid back Scarlet Life[2]. We’ll flop back and forth between instrumental electronic ambience, sometimes haunting sometimes not, and the more mainstream songs like Blue Words crop up as we move through Heavy Petal.

I dig the ingenious underwater tribal beat of Shelter Skelter. This gives way to a funky rhythm that at once modernizes the song well. While most of Heavy Petal treads on the very edge of nightmare, keeping the haunting nature of the mood at bay with Marvin’s cello and strings, Sound of Tears Forming will, with an early on stereo effect, spill you over the edge if only for a few seconds. Very off kilter, strange, really messes with your head under headphones. Actually one of the strongest reactions I’ve had to a musical piece in a while – kudos to Mask. Other than the outro Free Flow which rhythms nicely to a wonderful close, the last real track here is Those Ghosts which shows Sonja’s prowess at carrying a very minimal song by the virtue of mostly her voice with little interruption.

The classical elements are straightforward, obvious and welcomed in a world that has forgotten how to pluck a string or handle a bow[3]. It’s nice to run into an outfit who not only remembers how music was but is able to bring it forward in time with it to combine it with modern elements without overshadowing either side of the spectrum. The switch from haunting ambience to pleasant atmospherics adds a surreal quality to Heavy Petal that I rather enjoyed. Heavy Petal is like a dream that hovers just on the edge of becoming a night terror, but you don’t want to leave because it hasn’t yet and it’s still so strangely pretty.

Contact Information:
Green Galactic
Post: 1680 North Vine St., Suite 211, Los Angeles, CA, 90028, USA
Phone: (323) 466-5141
Fax: (323) 466-5121
[1] Delerium’s The Best Of was reviewed in Legends #147.
[2] See our review of Sugar, Spice, Saccharin & Cyanide in Legends #112.
[3] With the exception of my friend John who can pick off a buck at 300 yards… This, however, is a different kind of bow, but I digress.

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