Repetition is supposed to help you remember; it’s how people remember simple facts from school and work. This process is supposed to imprint what people deem important into their mind. The downside is that it can be hard to shake these memorized facts as they usually present something more comfortable. Mass Gothic lead singer Noel Heroux seems to have kept some of the same habits and sounds from his old project Hooray For Earth, even though he attempts to shake these obvious ties throughout much of his self-titled debut album, Mass Gothic. Heroux left the aforementioned band due to the “creative strain” it put on his music. He turned around and tried to return to his roots in an attempt to inspire a new form of creative sound. Though his intentions are clear, the outcome isn’t. As the adage goes: it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks.
Straining to break away from previous musical creations, Heroux used Mass Gothic as a starting point to combine as many genres as he felt comfortable with expounding upon. Ultimately, he settled on a rhythmic noise rock vibe that blends different facets into an odd sonic experience. However, it’s not the sounds of his instruments or loopings that are lacking — it’s his voice. Showing little inflection on his expression while attacking many subjects, it’s rare that Heroux’s range impresses or gives any semblance of a transcendental trait. There was a destined goal though, as he wanted to create music that “sounded big and heavy.” And although his sound could kind of be described as big and heavy, it’s accomplished at the expense of sacrificing the rest of the music’s quality.
What Mass Gothic provides is a patchwork quilt of everything Heroux has touched as an artist. He sometimes flashes new aspects of his repertoire, but mostly fails to break away from what he wanted to accomplish: a newly individualistic sound. During the assortment of feelings Heroux shares, he tries to stay upbeat, but his anguish and lament are domineering. He experiences heartbreak and self-sabotage in “Want to, Bad”, where his faults stop his relationship from progressing into a positive influence on his life. Even though the background maintains a positive feeling as he looks for solace in the fact they were in love, he fails to move on and keeps thrusting more pain upon himself.
This gives Heroux an uncertainty about where he stands in life and, more importantly, the relationship he’s pushing hard to continue. The fuzzed-out rock gets more and more distorted and emotionally wrought as the song goes on, signifying his mental deterioration at what is happening in his life. Clearly, he isn’t happy as he bellows, “Return into the grace/ I wish I never found.” Heroux is lusting after any form of comfort, anguished and apathetic to the means of achieving it.
In one of the album’s more coherently designed moments, the song leads perfectly into “Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me,” trying to disguise itself as an upbeat jam. Through this, it’s obvious that Heroux’s life is just like the patchwork motif he’s trying so hard to weave into his songs. He attempts to look at his life introspectively, wondering aloud if anything will work, “We want the same thing/ but our paths aren’t the same/ maybe this time”. Every positive is drawn and given air to breathe, paralleling the daunting process of Heroux’s emotional fragility bubbling to the surface.
It’s no coincidence that “Gothic” is so ingrained in both the album’s title and Heroux’s new band name. There’s a sense of dreary lament that holds rampant throughout much of the album. Each song slowly turns more tortured — both lyrically and sonically – until it becomes too much to handle. Mass Gothic attempts to offer nuggets of reward to those willing to endure it, but the overall package constantly fails to impress. It falls soundly short of his goal to break away from the repetition, giving little insight as to what, if any, direction Heroux will take.
– Eric N.