MASS gets sea of praise for ‘Sea of Black’

This story originally appeared as an online exclusive in the spring of 2010.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

With their new album, “Sea of Black,” receiving rave reviews from both fans and critics alike, the members of MASS said they are very pleased with the positive feedback. Lead vocalist, Louis St. August, was actually a bit surprised at first.

“I thought it was going to do well, but I didn’t think it was going to be received this well,” he said. “I figured it would maybe get seven out of 10 stars, but not get nine and 10 out of 10 stars.”

For guitarist Gene D’Itria, it was less shocking.

“I knew once [St. August] and I got together and started writing for this record it was going to be our best yet,” D’Itria said. “After the first four songs were written, I had a great feeling. I had no doubt in my mind that the fans, and others, including critics, would love this record.”

The Revere-based band of four said they feel they are only as good as their latest release, so after nearly 30 years of pumping out solid music, they are elated to hear their listeners tell them it’s their greatest effort thus far.

“I love that people are considering this to be our best album because that is always what you shoot for, topping the last one,” said drummer Joey “Vee” Vadala.

Bassist Mike Palumbo agrees.

“You’re always pushing yourself to improve on the next one and be more creative,” he said. “But, in the end it’s all MASS music.”

When it comes down to writing the music, D’Itria said they’ve improved as the years go by.

“I think as we get older, our songwriting keeps getting better and better,” he said.

Their process for creating new material is often a collaborative one, usually beginning with D’Itria sharing a guitar riff with St. August so St. August can match a melody to it and form lyrics.

“The other guys always contribute after me and [D’Itria] lay the foundation,” St. August said. “I always try to write positive songs. We’re a rock band from Boston that writes positive music.”

St. August said he thinks the songs they chose for this record seemed to all fit together perfectly.

“We kind of went back to our roots a little bit,” he said. “Our last album, ‘Crack of Dawn’ in 2007 was very versatile, while with this new one, we focused on our original style, which was melodic pop-rock.”

After they recorded “Sea of Black” at Mixed Emotions Studio in Boston, they flew the tapes to Sweden, where Martin Kronlund produced them.

“He mixed and mastered the album there,” St. August said. “We were communicating by either via e-mail or by phone to tell him what we were looking for. We tweaked it that way. We just went back and forth.”

St. August said he is forever grateful to Kronland, who also worked with MASS on “Crack of Dawn,” for continuously being professional and precise.

“Working with him was great,” St. August said. “He has a lot of patience because we can be pretty picky at times when we’re looking for a particular sound.”

Vadala said he is also very appreciative of Kronland’s skills as a producer.

“We were very pleased with the sound and production,” Vadala said. “Overseas can be a challenge with the critics but, as we can all see, they are very pleased, too.”

St. August said he is eagerly anticipating singing the new tracks at their CD release party at the Regent Theatre in Arlington on June 4th.

“I’ve been talking to people who are really dying to hear some of the new songs performed live, so I am looking forward to the CD release party,” he said. “The album has brought us a lot of new fans, but I’m also happy to see a lot of old fans that have come out of the woodwork and back onto the bandwagon again.”

While St. August said there have been a lot of ups and downs over the course of their nearly 30-year career, the good points stand out more.

“One of the best things was the first time I ever heard a MASS song on the radio, or the first time I saw our video on MTV,” he said.

He also said a big highlight was playing for a sold out crowd at an amphitheater in Los Angeles.

“That was a real thrill for me because I grew up a fan of The Who and they performed there the night before,” he said. “I was very excited to be standing on the same stage and opening up for Stryper.”

St. August has kept his voice in stellar shape over the years by taking good care of his throat.

“I don’t drink and I don’t smoke,” he said. “I live a clean life. I also studied vocals when I was 17 and I kept those breathing techniques that I was shown.”

MASS doesn’t have a set tour planned just yet, but they have the CD release party on June 4th at the Regent Arlington Theatre coming up, as well as acoustic shows in the near future. They are also flying to Maryland in June to be a part of the 2010 M3 Rock Festival, performing with act such as the Scorpions and Cinderella.

“We were asked to play in California on August 27th for Heaven’s Metal Magazine’s 25th Anniversary Festival,” St. August said. “I think we may do that, too. We’d really like to get over to London and do a few shows, so we’ll see what happens.”

They also hope to release another album within the next few years.

“If I had to put a date on it, I would say maybe by 2012,” said St. August.

In the meantime, Palumbo said they are going to continue to do what they do best.

“It’s all about the camaraderie and the love of writing and playing music,” he said. “We have a good time.”

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