Advance Preview - Mass Gothic
We were able to get access to Mass Gothic's new album, I've Tortured You Long Enough, (thank you Sub Pop!) which is due out August 31, 2018. We are going to take some time to preview the group behind the music, give this record a listen and a thorough review, and take a look at two of the videos for the singles. With that said, let's jump right in!
Mass Gothic Biography***
Mass Gothic are husband-and-wife duo, Noel Heroux and Jessica Zambri, who have been married for approximately 18 years and who live in New York City. Prior to the release of their upcoming album, I've Tortured You Long Enough, they had never creatively collaborated equally on an entire album together. All previous releases from Mass Gothic were primarily solo ventures from Heroux, the first of which was release around 2016. Heroux and Zambri saw this collaboration as a way to challenge themselves both creatively and personally.
We can say with confidence that the collaboration turned out fantastic, though it was not without its challenges. This included a relocation of the recording process (and themselves) from New York City, to Los Angeles, and to Brooklyn to finish. Additionally, it included a re-recording of the album. Heroux and Zambri realized the potential they had with their creative powers combined on the songs they had already developed.
The final product showcases Mass Gothic's strengths, which are used to create great alternative music with solid electronic and guitar driven melodies that at times feel downright magical. Also, there are fantastic harmonies between Zambri and Heroux throughout the album, which just grab the listener and do not let go. Some comps to pull from would be the Chromatics, and The Cure, but truly Mass Gothic has a sound that is so uniquely their own that those comparisons are only partial. They really need to be heard to be enjoyed the most. Speaking of which, let's get to this album!
I've Tortured You Long Enough Album Review
1. "Dark Window"- This track features Zambri as the primary vocalist, but Heroux provides harmonies which are much appreciated throughout the song and give the song body. Zambri displays great range in the song and a falsetto several times throughout the track, which works very well with the combo of lows and highs found in the melody. This song represents some of what we love most about electronic alt music, especially when it brings in guitars as well. Neither the guitar nor the synth work outdoes the other, but rather works well to push the song forward. Even when there is the mini-guitar solo, it's done with a purpose. "Dark Window" touches on a lot of themes of heaven and hell that could be interpreted as the ups and downs in a relationship, particularly given the end, where it seems the narrator decides no matter where the two end up, she'll make it better. In the first verse, they are separated (and the narrator has to look through the dark window) with one going to heaven and one going to hell. Then they are joined and both go to heaven and hell, with the narrator noting she is underwhelmed; however, at the end as we mentioned, she states "You're overwhelmed, I make it better here." Perhaps perseverance is the theme here.
2. "Call Me" - Immediately, this track kicks off with a pretty steady drumbeat and guitar work. Heroux is the primary vocalist on this track. Zambri provides harmonies for Heroux which again provide warmth. This song is much more guitar driven, and much less electronic. Additionally, the song seems a bit brighter as well, almost like a mashup of 80s punk and 90s alt. Midway through the song, there is a fantastic breakdown, where the track slows down that highlights both Heroux and Zambri's vocal prowess before it kicks into an electronic and guitar driven instrumental section and jumps right back into the hook. It leaves the listener guessing, but it's a very fun part of the song. We know that thematically, a lot of this album is autobiographical. This track seems to be almost discussing in relationships what we call the "waiting moments." Particularly when relationships get serious and couples begin to develop an identity together. Separation in those instances can leave one a little stir crazy almost. That may be the theme here; however, there is also the notion that many couples lean on one another in instances in which they need assistance for anxiety, etc. so we thought this could be a theme playing out here as well. This would be all the more interesting if it had this subject matter given the relatively light tone the melody has.
3. "J.Z.O.K." - With this track, Mass Gothic heads back to the electronic sound, which touches on industrial until the chorus. Where the song becomes much more melodic, with both Heroux and Zambri on vocals performing dual harmonies (though Heroux is the primarily vocalist). The electronic beat grounds the track while synth is layered on top. This in combination with the guitar work is just expert-level blending of the instruments and they perfectly complement one another. The initial drum beats sound almost militaristic when the distorted guitar jumps in; however, this shifts again with synth and other guitar work. There are even times when the song broaches on ambient dream pop. So, in short, there is a lot going on here but it all works. The themes behind this track again seem to be autobiographical in a sense that it seems to be about Heroux and Zambri finding each other creatively.
4. "Keep on Dying" - This is another track that begins in the alt-pop genre, featuring Zambri on vocals. There is a frenzied drum beat that runs throughout the track that pushes it forward. The synth work in the song pairs very well with this drum beat and the addition of organs is a nice touch. This track reminds us 80s pop brought into a modern alt setting, which is an interesting juxtaposition of sound and genre. The non-traditional song structure of the track is also a strength for the track.
5. "How I Love You" This was the first track we heard from the album and it is fantastic. The song features a steady drum beat and melody but some great guitar work throughout the track. Zambri also shows off some of her vocal range here as well. At times, she moves in and out of a falsetto seamlessly. "How I Love You" seems like a straight up love song on the surface, but there is a sense of longing present. The lyrics deal not only with the narrator loving her partner, but also discusses a lot of distance between the parties involved. The examples cited in the song grow darker as the track progresses, so while the song presents as a traditional love song, perhaps there is more under the surface than what Mass Gothic is letting on?
6. "I've Tortured You Long Enough" - Synths kick off this track with ambient vocals and an electronica beat. This is primarily a transition track near the middle of the album, but it's a bit longer than a traditional transition track. There are some fun musical elements including horns and high hats from the drums that make it more than your traditional change of pace piece.
7. "New Work" - Beginning with great distorted guitar and drums, "New Work," sounds a bit different from other parts of the album as there are not electronic elements prevalent. Heroux is the primary vocalist in the song and he does some fantastic work here, especially on the hook where he effortlessly employs beautiful high notes and falsetto. The guitar work drives the song, particularly the strong transition to minor notes and chords. There is a great quick guitar solo at the end of the track as well. Thematically, the song is again dealing with issues of love and death, which seem to be themes throughout the album itself.
8. "The Goad" - This track starts off with synth and Zambri vocals. The song is a slow burn and is constantly building, adding aspects which keep the listener curious for the payoff. The shift comes mid-way through the track at about the three minute mark as the song seems to come to an end; however, instead, it complete changes. Mass Gothic just used a theremin and it totally worked. This build led to the instrumental ending, which was about two minutes long. It was great music, although, we felt they could have had a bigger payoff here. With that said, we were happy with what we did get.
9. "Big Window" - This song features shared vocals from Heroux who handles the verses and Zambri who takes the chorus, respectively. We again return to the use of windows from "Dark Window," the first track on the album, so this is no accident that they use the theme to bookend the album. This song is a little more experimental with its sound than some of the others, which is fine. There's still strong drum, guitar, and synth work present throughout. The breakdown on this song featuring Zambri's vocals was absolutely fantastic. Combine this with the energy from the drums and melody and it's a great climax. The song shifts gears near the end with some electronic noises and classical music, that reminded us of space exploration before finally fading out.
Closing Thoughts: The themes of love and death are prevalent all over I've Tortured You Long Enough. Additionally, we think that isolation plays an important aspect as well. This album is extremely strong for the first release of Heroux and Zambri as a duo. Mass Gothic has a fresh alt-electronic sound that borders on ambient at times, but has some dark themes and undertones that remind us of classic horror novels. This album is well worth your time and will be available on August 31 from Sub Pop Records.
Rating 5 out of 5
"Dark Window" Music Video:
It's the music video for "Dark Window where the theme of isolation becomes so prevalent. Throughout the video we see a woman (who we imagine is Zambri) dancing in a dimly lit stairwell. At times, multiple images of her will appear in varying sizes. The dancing is disjointed and haunting. It's something that reminded us of the Black Lodge from David Lynch's Twin Peaks. Perhaps, if the "Dark Window" is this reality, the "Big Window" described in the last song is a more positive one?
"J.Z.O.K." Music Video:
Features Heroux and Zambri wandering around the streets of a city, with Heroux in a dress and his nails painted, both singing and dancing to the track. It is night time and there is a strobe light constantly flashing on the two. To us, it seemed that Mass Gothic was having a bit of a laugh at music video culture in this one as they weren't taking themselves too seriously in this video, which is a statement in itself.
For more information on Mass Gothic, visit: http://www.massgothic.com/ or
via social media on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter @massgothic.
Special thanks to Sub Pop Records, FMI about Sub Pop visit: www.subpop.com.
* - (Photo Credit: Shawn BrackBill)
** - (Photo Credit: Addison Post)
***Biography information for Mass Gothic obtained from Sub Pop Records Official Web Site.