Crack of Dawn

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Mass deliver a very polished and exciting chapter to their lengthy and interesting career with the release of Crack of Dawn on the British Escape Music label. Ten of the basic tracks were recorded with their longtime producer John Rollo in New Jersey while two others were tracked in the Boston area with Michael Sweet of Stryper. Sweet worked on the group's 1989 release Voices in the Night, though here both Rollo and Sweet are engineering while the band co-produces the music along with Martin Kronlund, guitarist from the Swedish bands Gypsy Rose and Dogface. Kronlund mixed the album in Sweden and the formula of shipping the sounds around the states -- and the world -- seems to be a winner as it is as elegant a blend of melodic hard rock as you'll find anywhere. The Boston area quartet (plus keyboard player Jeremy Heussi) manufacture a very precise and soulful combination of songs which are placed effectively across this CD and work well at keeping your attention. Listen to the interplay between drummer Joey Vadala, guitarist Gene Ditria, and singer Louis D'Augusta on the last of the dozen tracks, "Who Am I," to get an idea of the power on hand. An ominous, almost Sabbath bassline from Louie Spagnola keeps the complexities in place, this metal band displaying a sophistication that raises it a few cuts above the usual onslaught provided by many in the genre. D'Augusta's voice has held up fine over the years and, like fellow Bostonian Gary Cherone from Extreme, he knows how to cut through the layers of instrumentation with authority. "It's You" is a wonderful starting point, clever melodic hooks tucked inside both the guitar riffs and the tune. "Monkey Brain," on the other hand, is chock-full of Aerosmith riffs played inside out, all the songs here with something different to offer. But where Joe Perry's style is culled from the blues, Ditria's chords and riffs are solid high tech rock without old-school trappings. The title track, "Crack of Dawn," originally appeared in 1994 on a Boston compilation entitled the Powerload Rock Sampler, Vol. 2 in four-track form, taped at the band's practice space when they briefly called themselves Mother Train. Re-recorded with Rollo in New Jersey in 1997 and mixed in Europe, it borders on progressive, a complete change of pace from the folk-rock "Hello" which has as much commercial potential as the opening track "It's You." The title "Seven Days" is a "bonus" lifted from the group's Best Ones compilation and remixed overseas for inclusion here. It's a very solid effort from a band in complete control of their ability to communicate through their art, 12 selections which all have something unique to offer.

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