Grotus

Mass

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    5
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Having established themselves as an intriguing, just left-of-center enough group mixing rock approaches and industrial trappings on earlier releases, Grotus unfortunately let it go to waste with Mass. Happily, the quartet didn't radically change its sound, and Fox in particular still maintains the combination of wry observation and impassioned, focused rage against a constrictive status quo. However, there's just enough of a tweak to the results to make them sound less like a subtly inventive band out to subvert certain stylistic clich├ęs and more like one embracing them for wider appeal. This isn't always a bad move but, instead of creating something memorable out of the shift, Grotus found themselves in the same dead zone that Cop Shoot Cop reached on Release -- what was once new and thrilling sounded less so with time. As a functional enough album it does have its high points, most especially when the band breaks away from the deadening pace of much of the album, which seems to be a nod to grunge's breakthrough success more than anything else. "Ebola Reston," besides possessing a great title, shudders with a quick, sudden energy that much of Mass lacks, making the usually off-kilter mix all the more interesting, guitars just subservient enough to keyboards here. There's also the acoustic blues guitar riff at the heart of "Hand to Mouth," borrowing a bit of Beck's style with the combination of twang and breakbeats and getting away with it at that, immediately followed by an inventive reworking of Jimmy Witherspoon's "T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness if I Do" that samples his performance. Great as this particular sequence is and for all the flair shown at various points through the album (the intro to "Back in the Day" is nicely atmospheric in a spaghetti Western way), Mass ultimately comes across as a time killer when it should have been a killer, period.

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