Masquerader – Nothing Will Change EP


Berkshire trio, Masquerader, believe that guitars are unnecessary in aggressive music. They might have reached this conclusion after discovering Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come. Or perhaps fin-de-millennium pioneers, Asian Dub Foundation, were the ones to show them how to mix The Clash with Public Enemy using unconventional means? Either way, their blend of post-hardcore, alternative hip-hop and math rock goes against any trends, which is why their music deserves an attentive ear. Having shared the stage with artists as diverse as Death Goals, Indifferent Engine, Estranger and Bob Vylan, the Reading DIY collective release their debut EP in a rush of excitement. Those of you that enjoyed the recent album from New York duo, Netherlands, or even the last Turnstile record will find plenty to enjoy here.

They might have no guitars in the mix, but bassist, Chris Fry, makes up for this on opener, ‘i.am.masquerader’, with a succession of dirty pentatonic grooves. Tim Williamson’s suave snare beats will remind you of Sneaker Pimps and Bentley Rhythm Ace in the era when rock and metal fans did not appreciate the sophistication of experimental dance or alternative hip-hop. Some of you will wince at the sound of rap vocals, but Danny Molyneux’s louder voice dynamics are pure hardcore. The lyrics are more cryptic. “I’m a masquerader/ Acting up as if I’m on some shit/ Procrastinator/ Waking up nothing more I slip/ There’s no swaying me, no way to sleep/ The dreams that I’m missing/ I’m rib-caged/ Lungs can’t breathe out/ I’m vein-chained/ Tied to my skin.” We know the trio stand against the gentrification of the London commuter belt towns, but this reads more like a psychobabble rant about the neurosis of modern life.

The songs that throb with righteous rage are the strongest on this eight-track EP. It’s hard to be as positive about the three remixes tagged on at the end. Sometimes, they present an original as if they downloaded it from a hard drive. ‘Pressure (Hold Trinity Cut)’ relies on techno synths to carry the main hook, but the paranoid mood and dark shadow hanging over it land it somewhere between Stray from the Path and Apollo 440. Fry’s syncopated bass patterns towards the end remind you that the mosh pit has a place for this music. ‘Paper Thin’ transports you to the pit where the main action takes place. Williamson raps his way through a kaleidoscope of heavy bass movements and switches to hardcore belting when the drums intensify. You could even call the riff at the end a breakdown without distorted guitars. Is this what the Zach de la Rocha solo album co-written with Trent Reznor will sound like it if ever sees the light of day?

Masquerader might not be a conventional rock band, and that might explain why they draw from Death Grips and the experimental side of Faith No More on standout track, ‘Mellify’. Here, your brain will gravitate towards the sophisticated drumbeat. Is it a simple 3/4 rhythm disguised as something more complicated? The basslines are groove metal in spirit and execution. Williamson’s tenor voice will remind you of Roddy Walker from Protest the Hero. The power electronics at the end move closer towards Nine Inch Nails. What is this?

You can ignore the mediocre remixes at the end of this EP. The A Cappello rap section and noisy bass drops of ‘Paper Thin (Chameleon Remix)’ are worth more than one spin, but the reinterpretation of ‘Mellify’ goes on for too long. As DIY disruptors, Masquerader know they must figure out a coherent sound through the process of trial and error. Watching it unfold on record is what makes Nothing Will Change such an interesting audio spectacle.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 14/07/2023

Record Label: Self Released

Standout tracks: Paper Thin, Mellify

Suggested Further Listening: Indifferent Engine – Canis EP (2021), Asian Dub Foundation – Community Music (2000), Netherlands – Severance (2023)