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Red Masque, The: Feathers For Flesh

Hailing from the nether regions of the soul, The Red Masque returns for yet another installment of other-worldly, Lovecraft-inspired, dark and brooding progressive rock. This 5-track concept will be sure to send a shiver down your spine with its Gothic overtones, disembodied vocals, incantations, and just general weirdness.

Of course, that's all on the surface. Peel the layers of this onion and you'll find a very original band playing some very artistic and sophisticated music; totally engrossed within the dark world they have created. Lynette Shelley's uses of whispered word, Morrisonesque poetry reciting, and soft crooning vocal passages act as the main vehicle. However, the long instrumental passages allow us to discover a solid band which seems equally at ease going from King Crimson-like discordance, to soft pastoral sounds, to symphonic pomp, and back again without missing a stride. Although the whole disc is extremely solid , "Yellow Are His Opening Eyes" may be the standout number as it seems to be a microcosm of all The Red Masque want to accomplish with their music, encased in a 14:46 package. Dark and disturbing, powerful and fragile, this constant juxtaposition of contrasting styles defines The Red Masque.

The band seems to be hitting their stride with this solid offering. Fans of the darker side of progressive rock, yet who still want plenty of melody and superb vocals will want to prepare their offerings for the gods by July 10, 2004, when this macabre musical masterpiece will be made available. Highly recommended.

Track Listing
1. HOUSE of ASH (12.07)
i. Corridors
ii. Judgment
iii. The King's Lament, Pt. 1
iv. The King's Lament, Pt. 2
2. PASSAGE (14.12)
i. The Summoning
ii. Outscream
iii. Vacant

Added: June 3rd 2004
Reviewer: Yves Dube
Related Link: The Red Masque Official Website
Hits: 4145
Language: english

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Red Masque, The: Feathers For Flesh
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-03 14:44:43
My Score:

I had no idea if Feathers for Flesh was The Red Masque's first album or not since I came across this interesting album completely by chance. This is a 2004 release and was released through indie lable Big Balloon Music who are famous for carrying great progressive bands on their site. Only after visiting the band's website did I find out that this is actually their third album amidst a bunch of promo CDs and singles. The album consists of five songs, but each piece except the last one clocks in over at the 10-minute mark offering a variety of textures and avant-garde rock influences in the vein of King Crimson's Red era. Not only King Crimson, but other comparisons that popped in my head while listening to this have been Opeth, Novembre, maudlin of the Well, Sonus Umbra, and even Blackmore's Night. As a matter of fact, no one else may hear these bands on Feathers of Flesh, since it's the 'vibe' rather than the 'music' that I feel when I listen to this album. Besides, The Red Masque has a female singer and she sings in her regular voice as opposed to doing death growls.

What I like best about this album is that there are subtle contributions from each member and this makes it a real band effort. Vocalist Lynnette Shelley wrote all the lyrics, plays tons of instruments, and adds various weird textures. It's really hard to explain; you have to hear it to believe it. Another interesting detail is that more than one member plays the same instrument here. For example, all three guys except the singer play keys/organ. Guitarist Kiarashi Emami also plays electric and acoustic guitar as well as the mandolin. Bassist Brandon Ross, too, does some guitar work. Then there is the amazing drummer Vonor who also picks up the bass in a few songs. The music presented on this 54-minute album borrows both Metal and Rock characteristics as well as non-Metal elements such as the violin, mandolin, organ, harp, and even didgeridoo. That is perhaps what makes me think of the maudlin of the Well comparisons: the excellent blend of varied instruments.

Throughout the whole disc, the mood is very sinister. There is a good deal of keyboard work juxtaposed with a thick organ sound almost making some of the tunes gothic-sounding (refer to the intro of the third track "Yellow Are His Opening Eyes"). The most impressive instrument in my opinion is the bass. It's very heavy and subtle and the main driving force of most of the tracks. The drumming of Vonor is nothing short of amazing as well. He thunders and beats the skins viciously, but he also knows when to hold back and experiment with the cymbals like Bill Bruford in the 70's. The rhythm section is very tight especially when combined with the atmospherics of mellotrons. Emami's guitar work may seem a tad watery to some (especially in the beginning of "Passage") but if you give his playing a close listen you will discover that his style his very eclectic and lends the album a lot of credibility. The instrumental improvisation on the 14-minute epic "Passage" is amazing. Everyone jams in free form with monster bass work and fierce drumming in the background. The other 14-minute number "Yellow Are His Opening Eyes" is comprised of three sub-titles, namely "I. The Summoning", "II. Outscream", and "III. Vacant". Its tired intro with indiscernible spoken parts builds up thanks to the cloudy organ sound and finally erupts into a chaotic soundwall with absurdly menacing bass and drumming once again. The fact that each part was written by different members gives the song an added homogenous texture. "Beggars & Thieves" is a relatively shorter track with a 9+ minute running time and it's mostly acoustic based. This is where the Opeth and Sonus Umbra comparisons shine through, though The Red Masque's approach is a lot more atonal than both bands. There is a certain Medieval influence in Shelley's singing. It's, however, no where near as accessible as the singing of Candice Night (Blackmore's Night). Tortured violins and a sad mandolin piece pick up towards the end respectively and they truly lift the lyrics. "Scarlet Experiment" is not only the shortest track, but, as its name suggests, the most experimental in style. It begins with Shelley whispering odd lyrics and is backed up by some chanting-like singing, though you can never be sure. This song is a synthesis of weird noises and atonal riffs that seem to be played out of tune on purpose. Feathers for Flesh is far from an easy-listen, but it sure is interesting. I can see some old King Crimson fans enjoying this one, if they can get past the band's avant-garde approach. The booklet reflects the darkness of their music perfectly, with lyrics, band photos, and song credits.

Red Masque, The: Feathers For Flesh
Posted by Jedd Beaudoin, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-06-03 06:40:49
My Score:

The Red Masque has matured greatly since it last popped out to say "Boo!" to this here writer. Last time the outfit whipped up some kool moosic it came across akin to the soundtrack to a super spooky creature feature and while that happens here ("Yellow Are His Opening Eyes", which has very little in common with "Yellow Is The Color Of My True Love's Hair"), this here'n f-fort comes across as a much more melodic lil' affair, a lil' more focused and mature. Nice splooshy bass, cool King Crimson Red-era moments and plenty o' awesome vocal riffing from the lovely Ms. Lynnette Shelley (and her lovely companions). This is the kind of Artaudian orgy for the ears that the Doors wanted to drag listeners to but Mr. Mojo Rising could never get straight enough to do. Nice doing, boys and girl.

Red Masque, The: Feathers For Flesh
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-06-03 06:39:47
My Score:

Well this aint your daddy's progressive music! The Red Masque's 3rd album Feathers For Flesh is a fascinating exploration of the less mainstream progressive styles dissonant free form, fusion, intricately haunting space-rock, occasional passages of celtic-folk, and above all, avant garde. All of these styles and more are packed into just one 5-track 54-minute album. In fact, all of these styles and more are sometimes packed 1nto just one song!

To help describe the overall sound, let's examine one of the standout tracks the 9 minute "Beggars And Thieves". This song ranges from a dark medieval folk to avant garde & back again. For lack of a better description, we'll call it "avant garde gothic folk". The first few minutes comprise deep acoustic guitar with a mandolin picking out a few high notes, accompanying a melodic, rich female chant. Then two acoustic guitars play a wonderfully complex passage, but listen for the eerie high pitched choruses of wailing female vocal effects way in the background. There's a distinct change in pace as Lynette's singing calls to mind a deeper voiced Loreena McKennitt, or a brooding Candice Night. It is a medieval sounding piece, but those spooky vocals give it a chilling effect. At the 5-minute mark only the guitars and the mandolin retain any medieval effect, then we're into avant garde territory. The two guitars and the bass pick out seemingly random notes in the high registers, with little apparent reference to the original theme. Then the song returns, and the world becomes a pleasantly melodic place again. Very impressive, very gothic, very dark.

And the rest of the tracks? Well they're nothing like "Beggars And Thieves" and that is the whole point about Feathers For Flesh: The dramatic differences from passage to passage and from track to track. The unusual juxtaposition of traditional music structures and free-form experimentation. The masterful blending of musicianship and haunting effects.

This music won't appeal to everyone, but this is important music and everyone should hear it. Open your mind. Get Feathers For Flesh and brace yourself for a rollercoaster ride of styles, genres and experimentation that just might give you an important glimpse into the future of progressive music.

Red Masque, The: Feathers For Flesh
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-06-03 06:38:54
My Score:

One of progressive rock's most unique and bizarre bands, The Red Masque, are back with a new platter of dark, disturbing, and powerful music, a collection of songs that takes a few listens before all the pleasures begin to creep out of their deep crevices. Feathers For Flesh is not for the faint of heart. The music that this band creates could easily wind up as the soundtrack for the next Dario Argento slasher thriller, or perhaps the backing track to a haunted house theme park. Lead vocalist Lynnette Shelley perfectly drives the band through many twists and turns-take the adventurous "Passage" for example, a song that features soft, haunting sections of beauty, which then segue into bombastic King Crimson-inspired blasts of furious guitar/bass/drum workouts. Lynnette's delivery at times lulls you into a false sense of security, as she gracefully croons soft melodic passages that are quite pastoral in nature, but at other times, look out, she becomes a shrieking and enraged harpy, ready to do battle! It's also very much the nature of this band, as they handle many stops and starts, much like classic Anglagard. The presence of flutes, violins, and lots of keyboards add a classic 70's touch to these songs, and helps form a strong balance with some of the more avant-garde and heavy moments. The meshing of spacey effects, heavy rock, church pipe organ, and Lynnette's chanted ramblings turns "House of Ash" into a morbid delicacy. Is it prog-rock, or some demented soundtrack to a late 70's horror movie? You be the judge.

"Yellow Are His Opening Eyes" is a real journey into the blackness of your mind, a sort of musical nightmare, as Lynnette does her best Jim Morrison-meets-Arthur Brown impression. Featuring soft whispers, abrupt shouts, and angry sneers, Shelley leads the band into a full-frontal assault that totally pummels the listener. Kudos to guitarist Kiarash Emami, bassist Brandon Ross, and drummer Vonorn, as all three bash with enough force to rival Fripp, Wetton, and Bruford in their early days. But just as you get used to the crazed and frenetic riffing, the tone of the song changes once again to a ominous death march, led again by Shelley's unearthly wailings, Ross and his doomy bass lines, and Emami's tortured and distorted lead guitar. Lots of spooky Mellotron samples abound on this one as well, adding an even more chilling atmosphere. Gothic folk can be heard on the pastoral "Beggar's & Thieves" (featuring some neat acoustic guitar work), while the brief closer "Scarlet Experiment" is quite simply one of the most "out there" pieces of music you will hear this year. Sort of a mix of RIO styled experimentalism with "Halloween/graveyard" sound effects, this one is the only throwaway track on the CD.

Feathers For Flesh gets my vote for one of the most adventurous releases so far this year. The Red Masque seem destined to defy classification, as their music is so unique and varied, but at the same time contains many elements that we all love about progressive rock. Be it the sonic instrumental passages, the thought-provoking lyrics, the atmospheric interludes, the acoustic beauty, or the heavy brutality, this band seems to do it all. For those who wish to take the journey, and it will be a mysterious and perhaps treacherous one, I highly recommend Feathers For Flesh. The completion of the journey will be very rewarding, I assure you!

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