Our Anatomy Of series of posts is the perfect storm of blog material. This is because it fits both veteran and fresh bands. On one hand, it’s of course interesting to get a peek behind the veil of a band you’ve loved for years and find out the musical influences that have made them tick all these years. You might even go back and hear a new influence you were unaware of. On the other, the post also offers an interesting approach to relatively new acts, letting newcomers to their music consume it within the context in which it was written. Today, we have the latter case on our hands; Mask of Judas are gearing up for their debut release The Mesmerist on May 11th, an album chock full of groove and progressive vibes. It has this modern edge to it but also a restraint that is usually more characteristic of bands who have been making music for years; the result is something interesting in complexity but not too self-indulgent.
Looking at their choices below, you can see where that meld comes from. Including super technical but also very well refined and self-aware bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan and Protest the Hero, Mask of Judas really show off their technical underpinnings. Merge this with the more flamboyant but inherently reliable Paul Gilbert and Marty Friedman, and you have a list which gives us some insight into the compositional approach which makes their debut album work. Don’t believe me? Check out the video for lead single “The Conspirator” below while you’re reading the list; I promise you my points will gel then. While you’re doing that, you can also pre-order the album on iTunes so you can listen to the whole thing for yourself once it releases.
Jo Challen – Vocals
An album that I’d attribute a good degree of influence to would be Calculating Infinity by The Dillinger Escape Plan. The first time I heard it 15 years ago it felt I’d been hit by a train. The initial feeling of shock it provoked changed to a sense of relief quite quickly. The album slots together like an epic film and you can envisage scenes to each song but without context “Destro’s Secret” sticks out. The raw, real, sound of the original vocalist screaming his eyeballs out is rather different to some of the very processed vox you hear a lot of today but is nevertheless refreshingly ruthless. Some of the riffs pick up parts of your brain and walk away with them so it doubles as a noisy kind of meditation. If you can look past completely up-to-date production, I’d still recommend it to anyone who needs their head clearing out with a metaphorical axe.
Sam Bell – Guitar
Paul Gilbert has always had a huge influence on my playing. Back in the 80s and in his late teens Paul formed his band Racer X, they were like Thin Lizzy in bright spandex and more notes. Totally sick! The album Second Heat is stand out for me. The dual harmonies, the raw real guitar sound and energy I still find very inspiring. The stand out track for me is ‘Heart of a Lion’ which features one of the albums many virtuosic dual guitar solos and fills plus some punchy riffs and killer 80s vocals. These guys could really play, it wasn’t edited like mad, they practiced their arses off and it comes across in the albums raw energy which perhaps is one of the most important aspects of what I took from this awesome music.
George Bell – Bass
For me, when it comes to bass Arif Mirabdolbaghi from Protest the Hero is the man. Their 2008 release Fortress pretty much redefined me musically both in what I listen to and how I compose. When working with technical guitarists, I find as a bassist it’s about knowing when to follow and when to drop back. Arif I believe does this masterfully on Fortress and on “The Dissentience” in particular, understanding when root notes are enough but joining in with the guitarists technicality to really push the sound and keep the listener on the toes. This majorly inspired how I approached the bass parts of The Mesmerist.
Jof Walsh – Drums
For me this Mask of Judas album has been a long time coming and I’ve personally seen the band grow from what I originally started into something quite different. At the start when we began playing, Bleeding Through were a band that I was listening to alot. I loved the drums on this album as they seemed so ferocious and free. Derek Youngsma adds so many drum fills and constantly changes the repeating sections while still keeping the intensity of the song, it all just felt very organic, natural and powerful. This was my favorite track of theirs and also where I got the bands name from. I did give the singer Brandan an early demo of ours when I saw them on tour once.. pretty sure it just went in the bin lol!
Reece Fullwood – Guitar
One of my early influences, and one that I feel reflects my style and work in Mask of Judas is Marty Friedman. Particularly in Marty’s most prestigious work with Megadeth on the Rust in Peace album. I have always been inspired by his use of dark harmonies, creative string bends, exotic scales and thrashy complex rhythms. I think “Tornado of Souls” is a particular stand out track for any metal guitar player.