Masada – Masada (self-titled)

cover

Label: I.Corrupt Records / Rubaiyat Records / Upwind Productions  / Ruined Smile Records / Dingleberry Records / Don’t Care Records

It was a little over a year ago that Masada really impressed me with their demo tape, to the extent that I ended up naming it one of my favourite records of 2015. I remarked at the time that they hopefully wouldn’t fade in to obscurity as so many classic emo bands did after their first release, and thankfully, the German emo band have followed up their demo with an album that means there’s little risk of that happening. The promise that was so clear on their demo has been delivered on here, and the band have delivered a passionate album that recalls the best of late 90’s emo, without ever sounding stale or like a rehash of what has gone before.

Those influences are clear right from the first moments of opening track “Uneindeutigkeiten”, which recalls Yaphet Kotto’s earlier work – albeit a much more chaotic, intense version. The brief moments when the band step back only emphasize that feeling of chaos and energy, and the song goes through more movements in two minutes than most bands will over two albums. It’s a stirring start that promises a lot, and Masada make good on that promise. As with their demo, there’s no escaping the feeling that this could have been a lost classic, released on Ebullition around the turn of the millennium, but there’s more to it than just that. The small indie-esque flourishes from the demo are present, and cleverly spaced throughout the album so that they act as brief pauses for breath, never risking compromising the intensity of the record, and helping to highlight just how fast and lively the surrounding music is.

Even if a sense of energy and intensity (both musically and emotionally) are the strongest aspects of the album, it’s not the case that this is the sort of album that has to rely on speed and volume to get by. There’s plenty of smart, clever songwriting on display here, most evident in the way the songs rarely sit on one mood or style for long, making the album seem much longer than its 23 minutes (in the best possible way). Nor are these transitions ever jarring, but come about naturally, adding to rather than breaking up the flow and feel of the album.

Some tracks from the demo do make a return, including “Schwaerzester Punkt”, “Defeat”, and “Untitled 1”, but each of these has had some subtle work done on them, differentiating them from their demo versions. This is a welcome move though, given the strength of these songs, and they fit in nicely with the new tracks. The only departure comes with “T-S”, a 3 minute interlude of electronics and subtle noise that almost sounds like something from The Shape Of Punk To Come. It’s a move I’m not 100% sold on, but nor would I say I dislike it, and it’s good to see a band playing emo of this nature taking such risks.

Even if this track doesn’t do it for you, there’s no denying that Masada is the work of a very passionate, hugely exciting band. Most emo I hear these days fails to excite me (including some of the records I loved in my younger days), but this album and band rekindle that same fire that I had in me when I was 20. This is, of course, a Very Good Thing, and deserves the highest possible praise. Simply put, Masada are bloody brilliant. I love the understated artwork, too.

Masada can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp. A vinyl version is available from I.Corrupt RecordsRubaiyat RecordsUpwind ProductionsRuined Smile RecordsDingleberry Records, and Don’t Care Records.

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