You never quite know what you're going to get with Phiadelphia's The Red Masque. This band loves to throw curveball after curveball at the listener with each release, drawing upon influences that cover the gamut of progressive rock, gothic, psychedelic, classic rock, and avant-garde styles. Their latest Fossil Eyes, and first for ReR/Ad Hoc Records, is no exception.
Opening track "The Spider is the Web" kicks things off in spectacular fashion, a beefy, almost 'metal' tinged rocker that is like a head on collision between Van Der Graaf Generator, Magma, and Isis, Brandon Lord Ross' humongous bass lines driving the arrangement while the slithery, crawling guitar licks from Andrew Kowol add that psychedelic edge. Lead singer Lynnette Shelley adds in her ominous vocals on the creepy "Carbon 14", another aggressive number with rumbling bass and crunchy guitars, with the tricky stick work of drummer Vonorn providing plenty of jazzy underpinnings to this otherwise heavy and foreboding track. After the haunting & brief instrumental "Gliese", the band comes back with "Das Snail", a chaotic slice of avant-garde mayhem, dissonant guitars slashing across the mix above crashing drum work from Vonorn, Shelley painting the landscape with her intoxicating storytelling, much like a female Jim Morrison. On this one, the band is quite effective jumping from soft interludes to loud chaos. Another short instrumental, the spacey "The Worm", bridges the gap to "Carbon 13", a perfect soundtrack to your worst nightmare, complete with distorted bass lines, squawking guitars, noisy drums blasts, and Shelley's maniacal rantings. There's a certain King Crimson meets Jefferson Airplane meets Captain Beefheart feel to this one, making it quite an intriguing listening experience. After a couple of shorter, effects laden pieces, the band tears into "Polyphemus", a track littered with bulbuous bass, lots of wild effects created by keyboards, theremin, and guitars, and Lynnette's mysterious vocals. After the downright spooky "Metamorphosis", the epic finale "The Anti-Man (Not Afraid)" crashes out of the gate in almost doom metal fashion, Shelley's vocals almost defiant against heavy guitar & bass riffs and Vonorn's thunderous drum barrage. Lots of twisting and weaving instrumentation on this one, a heavy prog lovers dream, and easily one of the strongest songs to date from The Red Masque discography.
Lyrically, this is some pretty intense and dense stuff, and makes for interesting reading as you are listening to the demanding music that the band has created here (full lyrics are included). Nice job on the overall production by Vonorn, making Fossil Eyes a very bombastic sounding CD at times, yet dark and ominous when needed during the quieter moments. Due to the heavier nature of some of these songs, I can see Fossil Eyes appealing to the non-prog crowd as well, which should be a good thing as this band has been paying their dues for a few years now and seem like they are ready to be accepted by a larger audience willing to give their unique style a listen.
01. The Spider is the Web (6.48)
02. Carbon 14 (6.48)
03. Gliese 138 (1.33)
04. Das Snail (7.12)
05. The Worm (1.19)
06. Carbon 13 (4.10)
07. Lost in the Petrified Forest (1.37)
08. The Hive (2.45)
09. Polyphemus (6.01)
10. Metamorphosis (2.19)
11. The Anti-Man (Not Afraid) (12.43)