Experiencing Oakland's the Mass live is akin to speed-reading a Brothers Karamazov
-sized history of metal in 45 minutes: from time-honored badass shredding to involuntary stoner head-bobbing, from epileptic shrieking to Cookie Monster grunting, from unchained melodies to unhinged mayhem. Most of it subscribes to the Hardcore Feng Shui principle, in which every object in the room -- the speed, the time signature, the volume, the tone, the lyrics, the point -- is violently rearranged every 20 seconds. Secret weapon: frontman Matt Waters' saxophone. In lesser hands, this could devolve into an atonal, one-note gimmick -- grunt, bleat, screech, arrggh. But Matt has 17 years of sax expertise, influences from Mingus to Meshuggah to Creedle, and actual ideas
, flipping his horn's phasers from "Shrieking Tempest" to "Slow and Mournful" to "I Own No New York
," lingering finally on "Holy $%^&@!!," wherein he and guitarist Tom O'Donnell embark on synchronized single-note solo runs like some sort of demon-spawn Thin Lizzy monstrosity. Unbelievable.