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Music Review: Mass – Angel Power / Swiss Connection reissues

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I only remember one thing about German metallers Mass. Along with my Scorpions collection, their album Metal Fighter had to be hidden away whenever there was a lady in the house. Apart from that, I can't remember much about them, hence my surprise when a couple of their albums turned up as part of the SPV Rare Classics Series.

Mass were on the go between 1976 and 1986, and seemed to have a penchant for displaying their nipples at every available opportunity. Whether that caused or was caused by the drug addiction and alcoholism that forced them apart remains a mystery. But at least their music is getting another chance on these lavish reissues (digipak and slip cases!).

Angel Power came out in 1980, and was the first Mass album to feature vocalist Jack E Burnside. And it's a bit shit. But no more so than a lot of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands of the time. However, Mass had been recording for five years by this time, so you'd have thought they'd have got the hang of it. A few of the tracks are quite fun. "Hate" has a good riff and a message that tells us that hate is bad. And you can never fault a track called "Rock Baby", which is very Diamond Head like. There is a song called "Good Times" which is about having a good time. And it's followed by a track called, um, "Bad Times". The former has a few glam influences. The latter doesn't. Things rattle to a close with a good old rock 'n' roll song called "Good Old Rock'n'Roll", which is all about, yes, good old rock 'n' roll! On the plus side, only one of the songs lasts over three minutes.

There is a bonus track, which has been mastered from a cassette, called "Black Mass" from back in 1975, when they had a different singer – Beppo Hart, and a different guitarist – Mick Thackeray. It's very reminiscent of UFOs "Boogie For George", so it's only about five years too late.

Swiss Connection emerged two years later, in 1982, and saw them working with Martin Pearson, who had form with Krokus, having produced Metal Rendezvous. I am pleased to see that their tradition of atrocious cover art had continued, with a badly drawn guitar splitting what is, presumably, an Alp in half. In fairness, the addition of a half decent producer helps, as it does sound as though the album actually had one, unlike Angel Power. And, amazingly, the songs had got better. Jack E Burnside still couldn't sing, but that is masked, in part, by an excellent and powerful guitar sound.

If you were looking for a comparison, musically, you wouldn't be too far off the mark in thinking 1978 Judas Priest. Songs like "Trucking", the delightfully named "Dead End Rider Back Street Fighter" and, especially "Don't Wait Too Long" wouldn't have been out of place on Sin After Sin. The less said about their assault on the blues in the shape of "Red Lights + Whiskey", however, the better.

There is another bonus track from the same, unreleased 1975 album as "Black Mass". This time around it's a ten minute prog workout called "Firebird", again mastered from cassette. It's less UFO and more Blue Cheer meets Thank Christ For The Bomb era Groundhogs . I may have had an aneurysm while listening to the two albums back to back, but I actually enjoyed it.

Bassist Gunter V Radny has provided sleeve notes, what with the rest of the eighties line-up unavailable, Sad to say, drummer Johannes Eder has been half paralyzed by a stroke, vocalist Jack E Burnside lives in a care home and, to quote Radny, "Dave Schreiber has psychologically spaced out and lives on another planet."

I can't think of any good reason to recommend Angel Power, but Swiss Connection does have a certain charm as well as a share of good songs. It's an odd choice to launch a Rare Classics Series, but as they sold 200,000 albums first time out in Europe, I'm sure there will be a few folks happy to get copies on CD.

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About Stuart A Hamilton