I've got a special place in my heart for Black Metal, not only did I play in a BM band called Darkside Chapel, but the genre has always had something that spoke to me in a way that other sub-genres never have. The problem with BM is the over saturation of the same old tired bullshit. To me, a Black Metal band either has it, or they don't. There's not much in between. It's either heart felt TRVE (yeah, I had to break that one out) black metal, or muddled, repetitious garbage that gets super boring super quick. Some of the most underground bands are the best, while some of my favorites, such as Dimmu Borgir, get shit on by the BM purists as "corporate", but consistently churn out good stuff. Heavy Metal beauty is in the ear of the beholder, I guess.
So when I was sent an email by the Italian band Mascharat I went into it like I go into all new Black Metal releases, with hope but great skepticism. Thankfully, hope did not leave (hope you enjoyed the Opeth reference there). The album I'm referencing is their 2017 self-titled release which was limited to 500 copies and distributed by Seance Records. Thankfully, you can get the album on their Bandcamp Page.
Mascharat has exactly what I look for in a BM band. It's not an entire fifty minutes of "vokills" that sound like a cat in heat, with an equal amount of non-stop blast beats and guitar riffs that sound as if absolutely no thought was put into them.
Mascharat gives it's listeners a little of everything. You get the blast beats, you get the fast riffage, but there are slower melodic parts throughout. The vocals are, in my mind, the perfect fit for the genre. Clear but still brutal. The production quality maintains the esthetics that one would expect from such a release, but allows for all instruments and vocals their own breathing room.
According to the band they are "inspired by the masks and traditions of carnival". Mascharat was formed in 2010 in Milan Italy. Their name translates in Arabic to "joke, prank, trick". Mascharat's official statement on the album goes something like this "The album is structured as a symbolic tale, representing a path of initiation, divided in various phases and led by the masks. The path begins with the overturning of moral and social values and the destruction of one’s own identity, in order to embrace then a new truth."
Since the album is all in Italian, except for one song, which is in French, it's hard for a slack-jawed yokel such as myself to understand much of what is going on, Thankfully, however, when you buy the hard copy you get the lyrics in English in the booklet. The band helped me understand a little more about the lyrical content and direction of the album: "We mostly take concepts and elements from literature, religion and philosophy, but our main goal is always to create an authentic narration, in line with our aesthetic and artistic principles."
The atmosphere created by Mascharat's album is one of darkness and brilliance. It is highly recommended by this grizzled old Black Metal fan.
Mascharat - Iniziazione