Voices of Masada
~reviewed by Matthew J.
While Voices of Masada don’t exactly break new ground, they deliver their Sisters of Mercy meets Fields of the Nephilim goth anthems with an elegance few bands can muster. Besides, the London-based act has clearly done their homework. Not only have they named their band after the site of a first century mass suicide, they’ve opened their debut album with a song based on William Beckford’s novel Vathek.
Still, a solid background in 18th century gothic literature doesn’t necessarily translate to decent songwriting. Fortunately, Voices of Masada have enough musical chops to make these songs serviceable even if they’re not always stunning. The drum machine plods along as it’s supposed to. Danny Tartaglia’s bass keeps things grounded and adds flair to “Fallen” with a manic burst of energy that lofts it from background instrument to starring role. Front man Raymon Shah’s baritone has enough aplomb to make lines like “That which is only living now/Can only die” sound meaningful and enough emotion to make up for the occasional deep-voiced monotone.
It’s the guitars that really turn this album into something special, though. Four Corners features simultaneous guitars by Eddie Martin and Rob Loydon, and the driving power chords on “Step Down,” subdued strumming of “Shine,” and straight-up rock ‘n’ roll licks of “Flight” make this album stand out more than anything else. The tunes are catchy enough in their own right – “Days of November” and “Fragments” are particularly lovely and memorable – but without those twin guitars you’d eventually get bored with them. With such larger-than-life arrangements, however, Voices of Masada attain a musical complexity as rich as that of any of their predecessors.
While this album doesn’t quite reach the status of masterpiece, it’s a promising collection of songs. If they keep up things at this pace, they could have a new First Last and Always on their hands by the time they’ve finished their next album.