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Album Reviews : Mason – Warhead

By on December 9, 2013

Warhead is one those gems that wastes no time belting into the good shit. Not surprisingly, clear Bay Area thrash influences can be seen from the outset, but instead of leaving a poor taste in your mouth afterwards with the same tired, dull approach that so many other bands have taken, Melbourne based thrasher’s Mason enter the fold with a debut album that’s redefined, at least for me, what the ‘New Wave of Thrash Metal’ scene should be. Meaty riffs, bleeding solos, and intuitive drum patterns that express and establish Mason’s footing in high energy thrash well accompany their lyricism and vocals.

Having formed in 2007, and having cut a swath of destruction through Australia with their recent ‘War across Australia tour’, Mason is undoubtedly setting themselves up to become Australia’s proud bannermen for thrash metal alongside fellow international modern thrash bands as Havok and Warbringer.

Mason have all the while been busy making a name for themselves in the Australian metal scene, and since 2011 – and the release of their self-titled EP – they’ve already shared the stage with other such renowned local acts as Elm Street, King Parrot, Blood Duster, as well as American band, Forbidden.

Warhead opens with “Alarum”, an excellent instrumental that shows Mason for the riff lords and master soloists they clearly are. In only the first thirty-odd seconds, Mason had my full attention. While it can be stated that Mason aren’t necessarily treading any new ground here, they are taking a formula that coincidentally has become rather formulaic in recent years and invigorating it with fresh life, making it seem larger and more empowered than one might initially expect. Plucking influences from not only thrash, there are clear ties to both speed and heavy metal, with even the odd undertones from prog metal that can be gleaned at certain points on the album also.

“Imprisoned” provides the first inclination of who Mason really are. In the best spirits of early Metallica, Anthrax, and Overkill, Mason is a great example of thrash metal done the way it should be. There isn’t an oversaturation or extreme focus on blast beats or kick drums, nor does the sound come across as if it were swallowed during the production phase, underplaying the musicianship of the band. Rather, the vocals ring through clean and the entire band is showcased in grand fashion instead of meagre focuses on just the drums and distorted guitars; something which seems to infect a large portion of modern ‘thrash revival’ bands.

Featuring a guest appearance from Jeff Loomis (lead guitarist for Nevermore), Warhead is pretty straight forward in its approach. It’s no bullshit, no holds barred thrash metal, and it’s damn enjoyable; and equally headbangable, too.

There’s very little to fault about Warhead. The production is solid, the performances are admirable, and the overall ‘feel’ of the album is unpretentious. The album doesn’t seem at all self-indulgent, and instead comes across as just a bunch of guys harkening back to a time they clearly admire and love within the space of this 45 minute collection. It’s always refreshing when you discover a band like Mason when living in an era where thrash metal as a genre was once something that sparked so much life and ingenuity into its music, but now seems stripped of the passion that once fuelled it to be instead replaced with the simple desire to create excessively fast tracks without any other real purpose, inspiration or direction. Mason doesn’t embody this in any way, and they are instead perhaps one of the best examples the whole movement has yet seen of 80s revival done right.

With Jimmy Benson’s vocals brining to mind Joey Belladonna (Anthrax), Benson’s impressive range is only augmented by the hypnotic guitar work of Chris Czimmermann, the hefty bass lines of Steve Montalto, and the sound drumming of Nonda Tsatsoulis.

It was difficult to find a standout track on Warhead. Each song is just as pacy and fluid as the last, and altogether the whole album flows brilliantly as one piece of thrash infused power and might. Though, if I were to choose, I’d have to go with “Product of Hate”. Simply an awesome track. ‘Nuff said.

What’s also noteworthy is the album artwork. Created by Eliran Kantor (the man responsible for the artwork on Sodom’s In War and Pieces, Evile’s Skull, and Testament’s Dark Roots of Earth), his unique and undeniable style adds a flare of intrigue to this band with the image sparking up thoughts of some unholy conglomeration of John Carpenter’s The Thing and the Vietnam War.

Thrash metal feels so ingrained in Mason that listening through Warhead feels effortless. All kudos and compliments to them. They’ve deservedly earned the title of solid, no bullshit 80s revival. Indeed, this is the New Wave of Thrash Metal as it’s meant to be.

Band: Mason
Album: Warhead
Year: 2013
Genre: Thrash Metal
Label: Independent
Origin: Melbourne
facebook.com/MasonOfficial

Track listing:
1. Alarum
2. Imprisoned
3. Product of Hate
4. Ultimate Betrayal
5. Lost It All
6. Wretched Soul
7. Ways of the Weak
8. Warhead
9. Wasteland
10. Vengeance

About

Jonathon is an aspiring fantasy/sci-fi novelist and music journalist. Thanks to the influence of the music he grew up with, he has always possessed a keen interest in metal and rock. He is also a huge fan of mythology, legend, and folklore from all across the world. You should follow him on Twitter.