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Mass
Swiss Connection
September 2010
Released: 1981, Steamhammer
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: JP

Back in May of 2009 SPV formally declared they were in financial trouble. With some restructuring and so on the label announced in November of 2009 that they were going to…” be actively engaging in the global exploitation of its existing catalog, which currently comprises more than 1,500 catalog-numbers”. So what does that mean for music consumers? Reissues! Rarities at a good price! It’s a smart move because if a label owns the rights to back catalogue of some obscure band it’s easy to repress the music and slap some nice packaging on it. It saves the cost of putting a band into a studio and/or giving them a huge advance, which is partly what got SPV into financial trouble in the first place. Enough economics. What band gets the reissue treatment this time? Mass!



When I heard that the Mass back catalogue was being reissued for whatever reason I assumed it was the American, Christian melodic metal band, probably because they just put out a new album called SEA OF BLACK (which I should probably review as well.) However, to my surprise I discovered it was the older German band! That’s just as good or even better!



SPV has reissued four of the bands eight albums, ANGEL POWER (1980), SWISS CONNECTION (1981), METAL FIGHTER (1983) and WAR LAW (1984) their fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh albums. I have reviewed all four so please feel free to check out the other reviews in this series of four. Please note the extended intro to each review is the same.



Since this is the first review of the German band Mass on the site a little history is in order. Mass has a history going back to 1975. Think about it. 1975. That’s pre-Maiden. Pre-Manowar. Pre-Saxon! Even Judas Priest, Rush, Rainbow and Kiss were still relatively, new, young bands! Mass really was one of the earliest bands on the Metal scene! Metal began to reference itself as a sub-genre, a lifestyle, an attitude in the very early 80’s and Mass was one of the very first bands to embrace ‘Metal’ and talk and sing about ‘Heavy Metal’. Seriously.



Until 1980 there were virtually no bands who talked about ‘Metal’. Manowar, Saxon, Krokus and a few others embraced the entire ‘Metal’ concept and Mass was one of those pioneer bands. I imagine you could count the number of bands who had a song or album title about ‘Metal’ prior to 1981, on one hand…and Mass was one of them. Of course time has told that they haven’t got the recognition they perhaps deserve. Since the surviving band members are now well into their 50’s, perhaps this review will be a little nod of recognition for this deserving band.



Each album is remixed and re-mastered and comes with some photos. Each album also has a brief but interesting liner note/commentary from bassist, Gunther Radny. Each package also has a bonus track as well. The series is listed on the front cover as ‘Rare Classics’. Rare, yes. Classic, maybe not so much. Mass (at least in North America) had very little media exposure. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever met a Mass fan. Martin Popoff reviewed this album in his book ‘The Collectors Guide to Heavy Metal: The Eighties’. He gave it an absolute zero out of 10. Well, it’s not that bad! The band fit in nicely with virtually anything and everything on the Roadrunner label in the 1981-1984 era such as M-80, Samain, and Black Widow.



This is the transitional album where the band starts to leave behind the biker-bar rock’n’roll sound of the first four albums and make the full transition into Metal. I always felt that the band was from Switzerland, based on the album title alone. Apparently not. During regional tours the band established strong ties with Swiss rockers, Krokus and they recorded the album in Switzerland with Krokus producer. Even the album cover has a picture of what is presumably the Swiss Alps. The improvement in sonic quality shows. Bigger and better sound and the band is heavier, although just marginally. The band plys a sort of heavier Krokus or AC/DC which is unsurprising. Stand out tracks are the speedy lead-off track ‘Time Runs Out’ and ‘Dead End Rider, Back Street Fighter’.



Mass, along with any other number of western European bands in the early eighties, although early on the scene, they were eventually relegated to the second tier. Swiss Connection is as entertaining and competent as any record from that era.
Track Listing

1. Time Runs Out
2. Trucking
3. Don't Wait Too Long
4. Red LIghts + Whiskey
5. Shoot Out
6. Metal Road
7. Dead End Rider/Back Street Fighter
8. Fade Out (19.2.1980)
9. Bad Deal
10. Dark Night
11. Firebird (Bonus track)

Lineup

Jack E. Burnside-Vocals
Dave Schreiber-Guitar
Gunther V. Radny-Bass
Johannes Eder-Drums


Next review: » Mass - War Law
Previous review: » Mass - Metal Fighter





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