By Tim Niland
Gorilla Mask is a very exciting band consisting of Peter Van Huffel on alto saxophone, Roland Fidezius on electric bass with effects and Rudi Fischerlehner on drums. Their music is an amalgam of jazz with shades of punk rock and heavy metal. “Hammerhead” has a blasting, choppy and relentless beat right out of the gate with thick bass and explosive drums, with the saxophone fighting to carve space. They enter into an intense improvisational dialogue with fractured rhythms, deep sonic bass and wailing saxophone. Epic bass and drums open “Before I Die” sending a chest trembling rumble forward, met by Van Huffel’s scorching and deeply emotional saxophone. They are able to play with dynamics, shifting between loud squalls and open spaced passages. Bass and drums develop a funky and possibly dub based duet, before the saxophonist storms in and leads the trio back into a powerful collective improvisation. There is fine interplay between the musicians throughout the piece with precise use of space. “Blood Stain” is enveloped in ominous rumbling bass and thick clouds of saxophone and deserves an appearance in some modern crime noir, due to its cinematic scope. The music is raw and potent with crisp drumbeats supporting the billowing saxophone and bass. The bass playing of Fidezius takes up space like a physical object, and he duets with Fischerlehner in bravura fashion. Powerful and haunting saxophone returns with a gritty tone adding to the heartfelt resonance of the music. “Steam Roller” is aptly named as the musicians attempt to bowl the listener over with a loud and fast torrent of sound, before throttling down to a lighter nimble improvised section. They use dynamics in a splendid fashion, moving from being a full throttle power trio to a nimble free jazz band, within the same song. A theme develops around “Lullaby for a Dead Man” that uses strident saxophone and quieter bass and drums and recalls mid-sixties Albert Ayler. Van Huffel creates several shades and hues with his instrument, and the bass and drums aptly fill the remaining space. “Chained” ends the album with a roaring powerhouse of a performance, and all three of the musicians are playing full out, creating an exciting and memorable improvisation, using aggression and speed to drive home their message.