Aug 222023

(Andy Synn continues his long-standing love-affair with Massen and their upcoming new album)

As much as I enjoy dissonance and discordance in my music, it remains true – even at the most extreme end(s) of the spectrum – that melody often plays the most important role in an artist’s output.

And why shouldn’t it? After all, melody is one of the prime (and one of the most primal) ways in which we communicate an emotion. Melody isn’t just about catchy hooks, it’s about telling a story.

But, perhaps just as importantly, melody can also tell you a lot about a band’s history as well – where they come from, how they became who they are – and explains so much about why, for example, Melodeath bands from Finland or Black Metal bands from Sweden sound different from their compatriots from other countries.

It should be no surprise then that, beneath their fiery mix of furious Melodic Death Metal, folk-infused Black Metal, and potent protest Punk, melody plays a key role in the sound of Gentle Brutality, the new album from Berlin-by-way-of-Belarus band Massen.

As someone who has been following the band for a while now it’s gratifying to observe and experience how the band have grown over the years, and while Contraesthetic will always hold a special place in my heart (and the tshirt a special place in my wardrobe) it’s likely that history will come to see Gentle Brutality as the superior album when all is said and done.

The reasons for this are myriad – songs such as blistering, blast-fuelled opener “Energy System” and the arguably even more ferocious “Aksoma”, for example, are more powerful and more intense than ever, while the comingling of proggy technicality and propulsive, punky energy during tracks like “Corps de Ballet” and “Throwing Stones” keeps the music engagingly unpredictable (and compellingly unclassifiable) from start to finish – but, you guessed it, it’s the band’s use of melody which plays the most important role.

Whether that’s the juxtaposition of soaring cleans and scorching growls during the devastatingly dynamic “Disgusted” or the aforementioned “Energy System” (whose hook-and-harmony filled finale raises an already excellent song to a whole new level) or the clever interweaving of gorgeous guitar leads and soaring strings throughout the record (with the latter taking on an even more prominent role during the more ballad-like “Together Alone” and “Dym Idzie”) there’s rarely a moment, even during the album’s heaviest and most punishing passages, where melody doesn’t play its part in making Gentle Brutality the band’s best, and most cohesive, work yet.

It’s only apt, then, that the record’s final track is rightfully named “Our Melody is not Dead”, because there’s no question at all that melody is what keeps this band, and this album – as vital, as vibrant, and as vehement a record as you’re likely to hear all year – alive.

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