About time I got around to updating The Red Masque again. They’ve released two albums since I last updated their GEPR entry, and both of them are excellent. The first is their long-awaited studio album Fossileyes, and the second is a Live album, Stars Fall On Me, which has excellent sound due to the fact of it being recorded live at Orion Studios. I’ll focus this review mostly on Fossileyes, especially since the live album takes much of its material from there.
Fossileyes, as Lynnette told me about four years ago now, is more aggressive rhythmically than previous albums. It’s still got that dark, gloomy, strange, otherworldly, “end-of-the-universe and wish-I-wasn’t-here” feel to it. Gritty “King Crimson-meets-the-Sex-Pistols” rock passages vie with accordions, disturbing overdubbed vocalizations and odd-noise-soundscapes for ear time. If these folks have never heard Robert Fripp‘s League of Gentlemen album, I’ll bet they’d like it. But Fripp‘s got nothing on The Red Masque when it comes to dissonances and noise.
But don’t take the King Crimson comparisons too much to heart. If I had to pidgeonhole The Red Masque in any particular category, it would be RIO, a fact borne out by the fact that both ReR and Wayside Music carry this title in their catalogs. Actually, like most modern prog bands, they probably do more download business than actual hard media … I downloaded both Fossil Eyes and Stars Fall On Me from emusic, and the quality of both is quite good (though they still incorrectly name the live album as Stars FELL On Me). Stars …, in fact, is download-only.
Fossileyes is good stuff, and if you’re a fan of The Red Masque‘s previous albums, you’ll already know this is a must-have. For those of you who aren’t yet in on The Red Masque‘s cult, this album might be your entry ticket. Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. But, in the end, a rewarding one. A very interesting, rule-breaking band that actually doesn’t like to be called “prog” because they don’t like being pigeonholed into even this broad category. They’re just doing what they like, and would be happy if you like it too, and want to come along for the ride.
Stars Fall On Me features “Carbon 14”, “Das Snail” and “The Spider is the Web” from Fossileyes, plus “Passage” and “House of Ash” from Feathers for Flesh and “Birdbrain” from Victoria and the Haruspex. The album ends with a nearly 20-minute improv. The recording quality is excellent, sometimes it’s hard to be sure if you’re listening to the live or the studio versions of these songs, particularly the Fossileyes cuts. If you’re a Red Masque fan, you’re going to really want this album, available only as a download. For those not yet in the know, go with Fossileyes first.
You can also check out video of this concert. But I’ll warn you, the sound on the video is not the quality of the Stars Fall On Me download … I’d say the sound on this was picked up on the camcorder’s microphone. The video’s not exactly pro quality, but hey, what do you want for free? Links below. — Fred Trafton
Click here for The Red Masque‘s web site
The following links are for video of the concert performed live at Orion Studios from which Stars Fall On Me was recorded:
Carbon 14/Das Snail, Passage, House of Ash, The Spider Is The Web, Birdbrain, Improvisation/Tidal.