THE MASS, Towards Darkness (2004, Great White North)
Now what do you think that snake is doing up there? Skulls, as we know, are often found levitating above cemetaries and whatnot, and of course it’s not uncommon for swords to arrange themselves behind such floating skulls. Walk through any graveyard and you’re likely to see such a scene. But then there’s this snake all wrapped around that shit, and barely holding on, to boot. What’s his game? Is he lying in wait for his prey, the unsuspecting mourners he expects to file past these crooked and ancient headstones? Or is he maybe playing a trick on some of his snake buddies? Did he call them up and say, “Yeah, dudes, meet me under the floating skull. I got something awesome to show you!” knowing full well that his serpentine pals would just slither there on their bellies, like they always do, never thinking to look up? And then when they’ve all been waiting for like 10 minutes, wondering when the fuck he’s doing to show up, BAM! He drops on them yelling “Booga booga!” and scaring the shit out them. That’d be a real fucking gas, right?
Doomy death metal or deathy doom metal, take your pick, The Mass trade in more sophisticated riffs than the fuzzed-out Sabbath-worshipping stoner doom crowd, but can’t at all compete with the paralyzing dirge of true doom death masters like Morgion. Nor do they capture the gothic solemnity inherent to the best albums from, say, My Dying Bride. No, The Mass just plays really slow. And they sometimes play with a real lack of weight, as when the single guitar switches to clean melodic lines or a lead, and all that’s left to hold down the fort is a fizzy bass and the incredibly dry drums. I suppose it’s to their credit that they don’t attempt to fill that empty space in the studio when they know they can’t bring it live (having only a single guitarist), but still, when the rhythm guitars go away, it feels like some of the band just left the room. The Mass aren’t terrible, but they are pretty dull, and while I’d take them over pretty much any band to whom the descriptor “sludgy” could be fairly applied, I’d probably just as soon listen to nothing.
— Friar Johnsen