Music » Livewire

The Mass

With If These Trees Could Talk. Thursday, September 8, at the Lime Spider.

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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.

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