Monday, November 21, 2011

Mass - New Birth (Anniversary Remasters Edition) [Import]

Retroactive UK

Heavy Metal band Mass hail from Boston, Massachusetts and were formed in 1981. Originally going by the name Axes they were forced to change their name to Mass after some legal problems arose. Since I have already covered some of the history of Mass in my review of "Fighter" (see link below) I won't dwell too much on the bands long and complicated (maybe frustrating would be a better way to describe it) career. After releasing a self-titled EP (reissued as "'84 Unchained" the four-track EP was originally released in 1984 as a self-titled, self-financed and self-released affair selling over 10,000 vinyl copies) the band looked at this 1985 album as a fresh start for the band. Despite often being labeled a Christian heavy metal act (the title alone is often mistaken to be a nob toward  salvation in Christ) the album's title reflects the outlook Mass had as they saw their new contract with RCA as a new birth. Produced by Tony Platt (Uriah Heep, AC/DC, Motorhead and Iron Maiden) "New Birth" saw the band adopt a slightly more glossy style. The album is still heavy in much the same way "Fighter" was. Only this time around the sound isn't as raw. While pop rock and glam metal was busy dominating the airwaves here was Mass sticking to their roots. No doubt these Boston band boys were raised on the likes of Kiss, AC/DC, Van Halen and Sweet as "New Birth" is more about rock and less album eighties glam. It is also interesting to note that while a few of these tracks came from "Fighter" ("Watch Her Walk", "Too Far Gone", "Voyager" and "Do You Love Me") and originally featured more of a raw heavy metal sound on "New Birth" they are more polished. Some of the lyrics have been changed and different tempos are present. "Do You Love Me" is more of a pop rock ballad on "New Birth" while on "Fighter" it was a slower ballad. Both are quite good although I prefer the "Fighter" version. Even so "Do You Love Me" was the first single for "New Birth" and helped Mass gain some footing in the hard rock/heavy metal market. Overnight it sold  40,000 copies and the video received airplay on MTV. It should have helped make Mass a serious player and a band that could have competed with bands likes Stryper, Kiss, Dokken or Quiet Riot. If only a bad management deal wouldn't have come back to haunt Mass. Getting back to "New Birth" though and the track "Crying Alone". Simply put it is a great hard rock number with flashy guitar solos and pounding drums. So is "Time" which is a great track that had me thinking about a heavier White Lion. "Back To Me" is another flashback to eighties hair metal. Don't let that description scare you off though as vocalist Louie St. August does such a good job of catching you off guard with his instantly likable persona. Falling somewhere between Van Halen and a beefed up Warrant the track again features insane licks from guitarist Gene D'Itria. Seriously underated and sadly unheard of  Gene D'Itria pulls off these smoking hot leads. "New Birth" is another pounding heavy metal number. It does bring to mind White Lion on steroids or possible Whitecross. "Left Behind" is a number that helps make the case that Mass were no doubt interested in bands like Judas Priest, Black Sabbath or to a lesser extent early Queensryche. "Day Without You" is the band trying to be Stryper too much for my taste. Obviously I've left out the re-recorded tracks from "Fighter" for a reason. I just wanted to mention the tracks exclusive to "New Birth" first and foremost. With that said the tracks that were re-recorded work just as well on "New Birth" as they did on "Fighter"! Even in their new form here on "New Birth" they fit like a glove. The album as a whole has a natural feel to it with each song fitting in just right with the others. My overall feeling is that while "Fighter" might be more of a raw example of eighties heavy metal "New Birth" is a suburb slice of American hard rock. Not overly glam or pop in nature but straight up hard rock with a Boston attitude! Now, while  "New Birth" was made available on CD in 2007 (thanks to Retrospect Records) that reissue featured a less than perfect mastering job leaving many fans scratching their heads. So fast forward some to 2011 and Iowa based Christian label Retroactive Records worked with Mass to give the fans a real re-issue of "New Birth". Featuring packaging that is more faithful to the original vinyl release (including lyrics) the album was also mastered from the original tapes. Leaving off the original bonus track from the 2007 reissue might seem odd at first until you actually listen to these 10 cuts start to finish and realize it isn't needed. "New Birth" sounds insane this time around with an eye towards making everything sound just right...and right means loud and rocking! If nothing else that is what "New Birth" is all about just rocking out. One can't help but wonder what life would be like for the band if they would have gotten a golden record contract with money for a serious push. I've always maintained that Mass could have been bigger than Stryper (even if Mass are not technically a Christian band the lyrics reflect faith on a very basic level). Instead Mass tried to become Stryper losing some of that edge along the way. Anyway, even if you already have the 2007 version of "New Birth" I would pick up a copy of this new one. The sound really is clearer and more in line with the sound of the original vinyl.

 (review of "Fighter")


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