Back in 2019, we served up a lukewarm review of Massface’s self-titled record. Their intentions were good – strong riffs and melodic vocal melodies aplenty. Nonetheless, the threat of a market oversaturated with alternative metalcore loomed over. In an effort to avoid the risk of becoming lost in the herd of derivative, the Russian band reconsidered their musical priorities. This new record, Inequable, sheds the previous overtly accessible characteristics in favor of subtle, yet effective songwriting. Everything from the lush vocals and growls to intoxicating grooves create a far more lasting impression this time.
Opener “Aftermath” is easily the strongest piece on this record. As the glacial riffs build mountains of Chevelle-meets-Tesseract progressive tension, vocalist Aleksandr Grigorev acts as the sunlight, melting away the frostbitten build-up to reveal a shining, beautiful composition. While I’m in awe of how tasteful Massface conveys their brand of heaviness here, I wish the remainder of Inequable neared the dynamic heights presented in this single.
Following track “Dunes” edges close to holding the same amount of gusto, but with an emphasis on an Erra influence while “Wither” again leans into the Tesseract comparisons. In fact, most of the material in this tracklisting holds commonalities with the suspenseful disposition of modern Tesseract, particularly “The Fount” sounding alike to 2015’s Polaris. Additionally, we hear the ethereal qualities akin to contemporaries Time, the Valuator seduce further in “Bewildered” while “Bystander” has some serious bite alike the shapeshifting duality of VOLA or Textures. Lastly, closing instrumental “Pete Bancini” offers a provocative atmosphere reminiscent of 10,000 Days by Tool.
Although Massface absolutely conquered the glaring secondhand issues shown in their previous record, their journey is far from over. With the always evolving nature of the modern metalcore scene, Massface must also find ways of continuing to expand their sound to make their distinct mark. I’d love for them to further delve into the up-and-coming ‘ambient metalcore’ style that is unveiled on this new record. Furthermore, their talents of creating soundscapes is absolutely applaudable, yet I could definitely foresee further innovation with the inclusion of jazz and post-rock as well as a greater emphasis on electronics or orchestral elements complimenting their future material similar to other current boundary-breaking acts like The Dali Thundering Concept.
When summing up the nine songs of Inequable, the word ‘dimension’ comes to mind. At moments, the music churns like djent-y machinery, while in other parts, the flames of heavy atmosphere are gently expanded with the light rain of gasoline. This contrast allows for a fairly diverse and three-dimensional listening experience throughout the record. I’m genuinely pleased that Massface has finally found a superb identity and I look forward to hearing them expand upon it. Inequable is a bold, yet refined record that fits in snugly with the modern prog-core scene.