(Austin Weber reviews the debut album by a unique black metal band from the Bay Area named Mastery.)
Looking into 2015, I figured it was going to be a slow January for me, and here I sit with an absurd number of bands to write about, one of whom is a California one-man black metal act called Mastery and its first full-length, VALIS — an obvious nod to Philip K. Dick, one of my favorite authors of all time. Islander wrote about the absolutely massive and maddening 17+ minute album opener entitled “V.A.L.I.S.V.E.S.S.E.L”, but that’s just the beginning. Sole member Ephemeral Domignostika must be operating on a totally different demented level because Mastery is unlike any other black metal band I’ve ever heard. Once you hear the album, it becomes baffling to conceive that all of this was performed by one person playing every instrument and performing all the vocals, too.
Mastery’s greatest strength lies in its chaotic and stitched-together-sounding nature. It all coalesces together in spite of its choppy flow and the endless stream of new sections spitting forth from the vale. I don’t think I’ve ever heard black metal taken to such a furious zenith of intensity. It almost shouldn’t work — the swirling mix and match between old school black metal riffing, angular grooves, tortured dissonance, bizarre, almost mathy riffs, surprise interludes, alien warped lead guitar clusters, and the absolutely off-the-wall way it all comes together in one massive swirling murk.