Album Title: Mask Of All Misery
Label: Mascot Label Group
Date of Release: 15 November 2019
I’ve never listened to Meshiaak before coming to this review. I saw some photos of the band, with those masks of theirs and made an assumption that I’d not like them, especially as I would never consider myself as a thrash metal afficionado. I couldn’t shift the Brujeria comparisons, a band that I never really liked or understood. So, giving in to my own musical prejudices, I gave Meshiaak a wide berth.
What an utter idiot I was/am.
The hook to finally get me to listen was the fact that Meshiaak features Teramaze’s Dean Wells on guitar. Having been impressed by Teramaze’s performance at ProgPower Europe and their latest release ‘Are We Soldiers’, I became too curious to avoid Meshiaak any longer. I know nothing of their debut, ‘xx’ but I am aware that the band consists of three further musicians, namely guitarist/vocalist Danny Tomb (ex-4Arm), bassist Nick Walker and drummer David Godfrey.
And for my tastes, with ‘Mask Of All Misery’, they have created an ambitious thrash record that is anything but one-dimensional and which is full of melodic intent. I wouldn’t say that this is 100% nailed-on, what I want from my thrash metal these days but it comes pretty damn close. It is also entirely possible that ‘Mask Of All Misery’ will end up higher on my end-of-year list than Wells’ Teramaze record. I didn’t expect that, but that’s the beauty of music; the element of surprise and the smack in the face by the unexpected.
There will be those who won’t like ‘Mask Of All Misery’ because, for a thrash album, it is just too melodic, or because of the string arrangements or synth sounds that layer certain songs. To some ‘purists’, this won’t be thrash metal as far as they are concerned. But for me, I can only lap up this record time and again.
It was within the first minute or so of listening to ‘Miasma’, the opening four-minute instrumental on this record, that I realised that Meshiaak were nothing like I expected them to sound. From the quiet string intro to the chunky and muscular guitar sound that churns out riff after cool riff; from the blastbeat-led aggression to the slower, more groovy sections; and from the warm melodies to the flamboyant lead guitar solos, the Australians cram a lot into just four minutes of music.
The title track takes over almost immediately and we’re treated to more of that excellent guitar tone as the two axes dish out yet more riff nectar. And, for the first time, I get to hear Danny Tomb’s vocals, which flit between a semi-screamed and a rich clean delivery, fitting the energy and dynamism of the song nicely. At the half-way point or thereabouts, the direction of the composition changes markedly, turning down the pace, reintroducing the strings and increasing the melody. From here, the song almost schizophrenically flits between the two, which injects real dynamics and a sense of the epic into proceedings.
And then, suddenly, I come face-to-face with ‘Bury The Bodies’ which is easily in the running for my personal favourite song of 2019. It opens with a stomping and lurching mid-tempo riff and to be honest, it’s an unremarkable start. But at the 90 second point, in comes the most incredible melody. The strings float in and around as a sadness and melancholy butts up against the glorious bittersweet melody. It is enhanced by some beautiful clean singing from Tomb, that conveys a sense of frustration and emotion when he lets go a little. Solemn lead guitar breaks and lead embellishments add more spinetingling moments, whilst the rhythm section provides a strong backbone upon which the incredible song is built. I could listen to this track all day long. As it is, I generally press repeat at least once before continuing with the record.
But the quality doesn’t end there, with great music at every turn. ‘City Of Ghosts’ features some delightfully aggressive double-pedal drumming and wailing lead guitar histrionics to accent a much higher-tempo and more abrasive track in general. By contrast, ‘Face Of Stone’ is another instant hit with some monster hooks deployed within the song’s chorus to devastating effect, whilst ‘Doves’ is Meshiaak’s attempt at a ‘hit’ song, complete with acoustic guitars, big ballad-esque melodies and a vocal performance that sounds like it belongs in a stadium rock setting.
And, in true Wells style, the album ends with a seven-minute-plus track in the form of ‘Godless’. Dean Wells has a penchant for longer compositions and this one doesn’t disappoint, ending a great record on a high. It features some of the most immediate and savage riffs on the album and they are accompanied by some of the most unrelenting drumming from Godfrey. Tomb screams his lungs out in places too, to add to the drama. But as is the Meshiaak way on ‘Mask Of All Misery’, it’s all change part-way through as the frenetic energy is replaced by a slower, more melodic section, where the guitars chug nicely and then embellish proceedings with some slick leads. The groove-laden chug-a-thon that signals the beginning of the end is utterly infectious and thoroughly enormous. A fitting end to a wonderful album.
Not for the first time in 2019 has an album come from literally nowhere to knock me sideways. But that’s what Meshiaak have done with ‘Mask Of All Misery’. This is a masterful album that blends the uncompromising nature of thrash metal with rich and satisfying melodic sensibilities. Sounds like a winner? You bet your ass it is!
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from 2019:
Strigoi – Abandon All Faith
CyHra – No Halos In Hell
Klone – Le Grand Voyage
Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment: Awakening
King – Coldest of Cold
Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
Port Noir – The New Routine
Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
Ray Alder – What The Water Wants
Borknagar – True North
Leprous – Pitfalls
Myrath – Shehili
Prehistoric Animals – Consider It A Work Of Art
Voyager – Colours In The Sun
Odd Logic – Last Watch Of The Nightingale
Avandra – Descender
Darkwater – Human
ZW Band / Zonder Wehrkamp – If It’s Real
Teramaze – Are We Soldiers
Rendezvous Point – Universal Chaos
Our Destiny – Awakening
Evergrey – The Atlantic
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: