Black Mass
Feast at the Forbidden Tree

That album cover… I mean, BRA-FUCKING-VO. The mighty-as-hell Manowar-esque dudes holding various severed heads, the barely-clothed dusky maidens gazing upon our heroes here in awe and wonder. I mean, it’s just a thing of goddamn beauty. A modern classic in the realm of retro metal.

I’ve been an absolute glutton for all these newer bands taking on the traditional sounds of all things heavy, speed and thrash metal. Granted, the amount of quality releases coming out that fit in that general box has hardly been lacking. Of course, with such a huge amount of output, there’s gonna be a pretty hefty amount of duds and “meh” releases, but overall the ratio of good to bad has been really balanced, the scale probably even tipping slightly on the side of good. But certainly, if you indulge in this kind of thing as much as I do, even the good releases can start to blend and all sound alike.

Boston’s Black Mass is here to make sure they never have to worry about falling into that trap. For starters, their take on traditional Thrash and Speed metal doesn’t sound even remotely forced or in-genuine. You could turn on our wireless earbuds, connect to your smartphone, press play on your digital download of Feast at the Forbidden Tree, and I swear if you closed your eyes you’d swear you were back in 1983 listening to this thing on your Sony Walkman DD (cue pre-adolescent giggling).

The power trio achieves this by attacking listeners with a mix of bare bones (yet unoffensive) production, and a sound that mixes the best parts of early Sepultura, Possessed, Razor, and a number of other early thrash/death metal titans, all tied together with Venom’s piss and vinegar attitude, and some occasional unique flourishes that give the band a bit of their own little flair on an increasingly popular genre.

A perfect example is fifth track, “A Path Beyond.” It’s got everything you’re looking for in a product like this, and then some. Start with punky, breakneck riffs, throw in a shameless chorus that calls out to “Hail Satan, Lucifer!” throw in a simple, but very effective two-step bridge to break things up, and round that out with some double-bass-backed blackened death metal riffs for good measure. But before you think you’ve got everything you’re gonna get out of the track, the band throws in a wild curveball in the form of an almost surfy, spaghetti western-like guitar lick that comes out of nowhere, but sounds freaking cool. Then there’s the band’s most ambitious track, “The Speak In Tongues,” which brilliantly takes a page from the book of King Diamond, full of well-crafted leads, a few decent falsetto flourishes, and some great storytelling. Truth told, while I really like the Thrash/Speed attack, I’d love to hear the band further explore this particular weapon in their repertoire.

Back to their bread and butter though, speedsters like “Nothing is Sacred” and “Betrayal” hardly leave you for wanting. Both tracks bring different, unique elements that keep the album from becoming a one-trick pony – the former’s use of breakneck blast beats and machine gun riffs getting your blood pumping and head banging, while the latter blows you away with a blackened thrash attack ala-Venom or Celtic Frost, before stripping things way down with an unnerving guitar interlude that serves as an excellent transition into album closer, “Blood Ritual.” The final track features a little bit of everything in the band’s arsenal, starting with the vicious thrash attack, then breaking things down midway into one of their heaviest,  Death Metal-leaning stretches overlayed with some creepy graveyard-vibe bell accents that set a great scene and will certainly serve to get even the most stoic of metalheads moving in a live setting. It’s a great way to see out the album.

I know, there’s no real shortage of bands similar to Black Mass to feast upon these days (gods know I, myself, have pushed a bunch of them on you in the last year or so) – but if you’re into this kind of thing, you certainly owe it to yourself to check this out and add it to your library. They’ve got just enough elements that help them stand out from the crowd, and in my book, there’s just nothing quite like the distinct sound and energy of a power trio slapping you in the face with this kind of ferocity. An excellent, high-speed thrill ride of a debut for these Bostonians.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
September 1st, 2021

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