Review Summary: All rise please, the sermon's about to start.
I feel like I’ve wasted days trying to ascertain what exactly about Mass III
makes it such a compelling listen. The main demon to do battle with is its musical simplicity. Sitting firmly in the sludgier end of the post-metal spectrum means the Belgians don’t devote a lot of time to making pretty soundscapes and twinkly climaxes.; instead, their modus operandi
is to mix tar-slow, regularly repeated hardcore riffs with equally languorous percussion, feeling like a halfway house between a funereal dirge and angsty diatribe. It’s not the most vocally rangy album either. While there are
some clean vocals, crooning in the background of ‘Am Kreuz’ and taking centre stage in ‘Le Fils des Faux’ and the creepy first half of ‘Ritual’, the vast majority of Colin van Eeckhout’s performance consists of an agonised, throaty roar, opting for sheer power over anything more musical. Especially considering all but one track stretches over the seven-minute mark, every technical analysis I’ve made throws out the same response: this album should be too simple for its own good, let alone make further listens an inviting prospect.
Yet, the sum of Mass III
’s parts is truly mesmerising. The album’s repetitive nature is entrancing as opposed to boring, drawing the listener into what is effectively a sermon – a macabre, hyper-devotional sermon spearheaded by the harrowed van Eeckhout. Whether he’s screaming bloody murder or taking a more sensitive, calculated approach, there’s an uncomfortable conviction in every word that leaves his mouth (made more uncomfortable still when considering many lyrics contain themes of self-mutilation, metaphorical or otherwise), one that keeps the listener hooked as blindly as the best orators. Where the music is
so simple, every nuance they utilise is that much more appreciable; for example, most of the time using two different sounding drums would go almost unnoticed, yet in ‘Am Kreuz’ the rhythmic clanging adds an industrial yet saddening je ne sais quoi
to one of the album’s subtler moments. Amenra’s less-is-more attitude is exemplified in the second half of ‘Némelèndèlle’, as van Eeckhout’s desperate roars and a little post-rock influence provide the only reprieve from a sole, morose riff repeated for nearly 5 minutes. A half-arsed approach would make this tedious, but instead it proves to be one of the album’s (possibly even one of the genre’s) finest moments, by virtue of their seemingly unrelenting enthusiasm to their cause.
Indeed, it’s this enthusiasm, if it can be called that, that sells this hardcore/sludge amalgam; too bleak to feel malicious, yet still too unhinged to feel comfortable even for a second. Mass III
is the kind of album that leaves that tense feeling in your chest, where the air never quite seems to leave but you can’t ever get it out - leaving it to thicken, to stagnate, to suffocate. Parts will stand out, but it’s the unceasing feeling of desolation that lingers, long after the fever pitch of ‘Ritual’ breaths its last.