NEW! Now Available through Bandcamp
Release Date: 2004, Big Balloon Music
Available format: CD & Pay What You Want Downloads (via Bandcamp)
LINEUP: Brandon Lord Ross, Vonorn, Lynnette Shelley, Kiarash Emami
The critically-acclaimed album Feathers for Flesh was released in 2004 by the now defunct Washington state label Big Balloon Music. You can listen to sample mp3 files available on the band's downloads page, or by clicking the links below. The album has a total running time of 54:32.
Feathers for Flesh is an avant rock masterpiece and is the band's most sophisticated and sinister album to date. With monster bass lines, thunderous and intricate drum work, slinky and psychedelic guitar craft, unique vocals, creep organ keyboards, mutated mellotrons, and a masterful arsenol of unexpected aural sound effects utilizing non-traditional rock instrumentation (everything from the Chinese erhu to the bowed psaltery, pots and pans, and a slinky toy). Engineered by bandmembers Vonorn and Kiarash Emami, and produced by Vonorn at his studio, the sound quality of the album is top-knotch and is sure to please audiophiles. The cd, which features an 8-page full-color booklet, was designed by bandmember Lynnette Shelley, and is complete with original illustrations, photographs, and lyrics.
Please click on a title to hear a sample.
ABOVE: TRM debuting their "Beggars & Thieves" single for Fossil Eyes at NEAR FEST 2003 in Bethlehem, PA. (L-R): Kiarash Emami, John Reagan of Big Balloon Music, Nipples the Rat, Brandon Ross, Lynnette Shelley
This third album from Philadelphia quartest The Red Masque starts off just as you'd hope in a creaking forest haunted by the wraith-like vocal of Lynnette Shelley, which promises to shuffle around in the digital undergrowth for the next hour or so. Instead, all Prog hell breaks loose with doomy organ, Curved Air-style violin sawing and a full-on rock orchestra sliding effortlessly from movement to movement. 'Feathers for Flesh' has 'concept album' written all over it, as it veers from Tarkus-era Emerson Lake & Palmer, to Kate Bush's version of rock bombast, to fusion folk. This balancing act will leave most listeners screaming in anticipation for the grand finale.
— Edwin Pouncey, Issue No. 248, The Wire.
Philadelphia's The Red Masque are a gothic-colored collision of avant-prog and psychedelic influences. Their new album, Feathers For Flesh, is their most accomplished release to date, featuring an exponetial growth in both songwriting skill and studio proficiency.
Another disclosure: The Red Masque's singer, Lynnette Shelley provided excellent backing vocals on the debut Church of Hed CD. But hey, I wouldn't have asked her to sing on it, nor would I write about her band if they didn't warrant it.
What sets TRM apart from other bands wearing the prog banner is the general taste of material. A lot of prog, especially that from the avant-prog camp, wallows in this modern classical sludge of complexity; never stooping to grace the listener with a simple, memorable melody or powerful groove.
Or as David St. Hubbins put it, there's a fine line between clever and stupid.
Feathers For Flesh shows that TRM is on their way of mastering that ultimate skill in producing quality progressive music: contrasting the complex against the simple; contrasting the dissonant against the melodious. Let alone that a sense of psychedelia, color and danger totally permeates the mood. No dull music school readings here.
The highlights of the album for me are Yellow are his Opening Eyes and Beggars & Thieves. The latter song especially shows TRM at their most tuneful; it has almost classic folk melodies, giving Shelley a chance to show her vocal range and depth of expression. Special props to drummer Vonorn and guitarist Kirash Emami for their quality engineering work. This album sounds stunning; an accomplishment considering the amount of bizarre instrumentation on the disc. Feathers For Flesh is definitely recommended for folks who need to be convinced there is still quality, inventive, and progressive music coming out of the Prog genre.
— Paul Williams, Yahoo Associated Content
Starting with a wind and occasional percussions and then hissings that go stronger and stronger with some chanting and cries floating by, this haunting and frightening atmosphere creates a tension and anticipation in me, the listener – what will come next? An explosion of sounds? Yes! A powerful, fuzzing and fantastic bass gives a great complex rhythm accompanied by the rest of the band, and Lynnette’s cries. This is a very powerful entry, one that grabs me strongly and gets my undivided attention. TRM know how to create a compelling, even frightening atmosphere, whether it be in a fast, bombarding way, or in a slow, more minimalist and gloomy fashion. Their sound pierces, traverses through my brain leaving deep markings (in a good way). The opening sung lyrics – “I Live In A House Of Ash” – as Lynnette performs them are mesmerizing! Her voice is as beautiful as it is powerful and controlling. She manages to convey feelings very well with her deep evocative voice. However, in this case, if TRM would have only vocals and the band would not be as effective as them it would lose much of the effect. This brings me to the point, that the band plays very well and with passion. The drums are all over the place when needed and give the right amount of support when they recede more to the background.
While you might recognize influences in their various songs, I feel they have well crafted a sound of their own, a niche that they inhabit and a comfortable place they hold. They cover a ground from quiet (yet it can still sound terrifying) and unhurried (as in the songs Passage, Beggars & Thieves ) to the fast, furious and complex (parts of House Of Ash and of Yellow Are His Opening Eyes); they also play a more conventional sound, but then shift away suddenly and make it more complicated sounding or the other way around, move to the simpler from the more complicated parts (see Passage). Basically they are varied with respect to the complexity and intensity of the music they play. They move from angular form to a smoother, softer and rounder sound. They also tend to go for the more epic form of songs; long, with various different parts and complex with regards to structure and playing style. They are not afraid to experiment, and do this in the sound they create and in the composition’s structures, not forgetting the original theme and musical idea that started the song. Another aspect to the band is the more avant-garde approach as can be heard in the last two songs. In “Yellow Are His Opening Eyes”, Lynnette’s voice as she narrates/sings, reminds me of Diamanda Galas. What a fabulous voice! In this song when the abstract, rhythmless part ends, they show how they can rock (heavily) and do it very well, in a sophisticated way with an influence from King Crimson Red-era. In fact the King Crimson vibe can be heard in various points in the album (again, Red era). It’s as if they’ve taken KC sound and “mutated” it so that it fits their vision. You might think that beauty is absent here. Well what is beauty in your eyes? I think that all the songs here are beautiful; but if you want a more common perception of beauty then, Beggars and Thieves with its folk sound is definitely the song here which will appeal to the wider musical palate. With another powerful vocal delivery, Lynnette is fantastic in this song, backed up by the excellent musicians in the band. With the closing song, Scarlet Experiments, comes experimentation as the name implies. The songs is amorphic, going up and down in volume, it has “disturbing” sound effects, hissing vocals; it is abstract as if someone were painting a musical canvas not sure what he wants to paint, only having a vague image in his mind, a very basic idea; and he uses the brush with violence one moment and then calming down the next to bring to life his unclear vision. It is a sort of exercise in “drawing” the music to describe your vision.
I find this album to be a magnificent listening experience. The band performs wonderfully, bringing to life a vivid vision which is as beautiful as it is complex. I recommend this highly to people who want an artistic, adventurous and experimental form of rock that takes in what is perceived as common and usual and absorbs it into what is viewed as unusual.
— Assaf Vestin, ProgArchives
The Red Masque are an American progressive band who reside in that odd, twilight world also inhabited by the likes of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and anything involving Chris Cutler. After an initial EP, 2002's Victoria & the Haruspex, 2004's Feathers for Flesh is their first full-length release [edit, it's actually our second full-length release], a rollercoaster-ride of vocal and instrumental angularity, reminding me variously of Magma, King Crimson (of course) and Henry Cow, classical guitars rubbing shoulders with household implements, vocal pyrotechnics and thunderous bass. Well, that's one track out of the way. Seriously, trying to single out any one piece here for praise is futile; the album works best as a whole, refusing to outstay its welcome, despite its near-hour length.
Despite rumours of Mellotron use (player unknown: three members play keys), the occasional string part scattered throughout the album clearly has nothing to do with a real machine, although the band do mention 'Mellotron sounds' on their website. So; jaded prog fan? Looking for something to pique your curiosity without singeing your ears? I think The Red Masque may be what you're looking for. No Mellotron, but recommended anyway. 4 Stars (out of 5)
"[T]hese Philadelphians have seemingly attended many a Shakespeare festival, not that their names have anything to do with that. But their wearing of long capes in the forest certainly does, as do the utter theatricality and drama of their extremely-long-song hard prog, like for instance how the five tracks on this quite listenable 2004 album go through several paradiddling scenery and costume changes, often getting loud like King Crimson or Van Der Graaf Generator in the process.
— Chuck Eddy, Rhapsody
The Red Masque's third release, Feathers For Flesh ought to have two
warnings: One, don't listen to this in the dark. Two, best played in the dark. Well, maybe three: warning, contents may be contagious.
Why the first "warning"? Because like the creepiest, subtlest horror stories - as told by Poe, let's say - this is a creepy horror release that is the most scary in the dark. Not pitch dark - that might just be too much... especially if you've a weak heart. But just dark enough that the shadows shift and move like restless shades. Dark enough that mementos on the hutch become gargoyles, and you feel you've been sucked into the world of Edgar Allen Poe, of Hammer Horror films... of some very dark and mysterious and strangely thrilling place. Angular edges thrust out at you like menacing spirits, throbbing bass pushes you along, allowing you no way to turn back. It's gothic - church organs play deep rich horror tones; sad violins, distorted guitars, wailing voices that cry sweetly like tortured spirits. This is not a bad thing, but if you don't want "nightmares"... best listen to this with the lights on... (This paragraph written while listening to "House of Ash," which opens the CD).
The second warning is because it will just not have the right effect in full light, as light chases away a certain ambiance that is required for the full effect. Which also means... this is not background music... except to some real-time dramatization of the pieces, if such a thing were possible. To get the full effect, you must immerse yourself wholly, give yourself over to the dark journey that The Red Masque wish to take you on. Just remember though, it's just music... you're not really there. (Just turn on the lights to chase away the shadows, the gargoyles and things that haunt the night.)
Things aren't all angular darkness - and while you might want to mention King Crimson, that certain royal shade is far less apparent here than on their debut ep. In fact, I'd say that "Passage" is more reminiscent of the arty, moody, floaty, folk-inflected music psychedelic music of the 60s. That genre that ran parallel to progressive rock. There are gentle guitar, bass, and keyboard passages here. Noodly and dark... I think too of the German psych-prog bands that I've heard a lot of on the Garden of Delights label. But that's only the first part, as "Passage" is more than just a folky-psych piece; as the complexity increases, so does the pace, and we goe off into more eclectic, eccentric territories. Screaming guitar, angular percussion ... King Crimson if the King is Mad King George. these lighter, acoustic, airier passages (no pun) return with "Beggars & Thieves." Here we get mandolin plucking out a medieval melody.
"Scarlet Experiment" is the words of Emily Dickinson as voiced by Lynnette Shelley... and here you will find Shelley right beside your ear, whispering the words... Beside your ear? No, she's inside it... Earlier she speaks/sings her way through "Yellow Are His Opening Eyes" ... performance art... a poetry reading dramatized... a soliloquy... That is the first part of this multi-part piece... more dark angularity ensues, ensnares, consumes.
Who are the folks responsible for this beautiful horror? Vocals and recitation are provided by Shelley... she of a voice flexible enough to get deep and guttural and high and sweet - earthy and ethereal ... sometimes in the same piece. She also plays erhu (a Chinese violin or fiddle with 2 strings), psaltery, and pots, pans, slinky and other objects, the credits say. Kiarash Emami plays guitars, mandolin, keyboards and contributes vocals; Brandon Ross plays bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards and contributes vocals; Vonorn plays drums, percussion, keyboards, theremin, electric guitar, bass guitar, and contributes vocals. Special guests are Damian Boucher on violin on "House Of Ash" and Sue Wolfsong contributes additional vocals to "Scarlet Experiment."
I first played this (some 12 months after its release, sadly) whilst driving about Allentown and Bethlehem, PA during NEARfest weekend. Appropriate, as TRM are a Philadelphia band and both those cities are about an hour-plus out of Philly. And, I'll say here, I think TRM ought to make a NF appearance, perhaps as the Sunday opener... ah, but if this is best heard in the dark... some what higher up in billing, so much later in the day.
Ah, so what do I think. I think this is a beautifully horrific (in a good way) CD that sent and sends chills down my spine and I keep coming back to it in fascination. I have not pecked away entirely at the shell... have not yet slipped into every shadow... there is still much to explore if my psyche can handle it. For all the dark places it leads, there are darker places hinted at... dare you go?
— Stephanie Sollow, Progressive World
They've come a long way since their somewhat rough debut Death of The Red Masque. A long way indeed. Anyone who dismissed that early effort as amateurish and ambitious beyond their abilities only needs to hear this outstanding third full length CD. The four piece fronted by vocalist Lynnette Shelley plays a dizzying array of instrumentation, and delivers an intense workout that defies categorization. At any minute they may be driving out a brutal 70's Crimson like rock, a gentle nearly-pastoral pop, offering quirky and angular outbursts of avant-garde strangeness, or hovering in dark, mysterious gothic spaces often all within the confines of the same track. Of the five cuts on the disc, all but one are lengthy multi-part suites in the 10-15 minute range. We got a preview of one of these ("Beggars & Thieves") on a single released late last year (reviewed in #30). "Passage" encompasses it all, opening with a hard rocking crimsoid tour-de-force before moving into a more delicately balanced section showcasing Shelley's vocals along with acoustic guitars and flute, slowly evolving back out into a more intense sonic disruption again. Shelley's improvisation-backed stream of consciousness at the beginning of "Yellow Are His Opening Eyes" is a bit reminiscent of Jim Morrison's "Horse Latitudes" on Strange Days, though it's not long before the band is rocking again. In all, this is an outstanding release that loudly trumpets The Red Masque's arrival as a world class progressive rock act.
What does it say about today that bands that are not fluffy get categorized as "avant"? That's the pigeonhole The Red Masque are often stuffed into, with all the grace of the proverbial square peg. A quartet using standard prog instrumentation and a number of exotic/found percussion instruments, they throw the odd bone towards avant-prog, but more often remind me of Starless and Bible Black or Godbluff you know, the way prog used to be, with a spirit of adventure and a willingness to shock or unnerve or challenge. They have many ideas trying to bust through; rock, folk, free-form, art song, and so on. And if you're concerned that there are too many angelic wallflower chick singers in prog, boy are you in for a treat. Lynnette Shelley is no angel; she's more of a cross between Cyoakha Grace (Azigza) and Carla Kihlstedt (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), although deeper than both. A modern comparison might be Devil Doll with the high gothic pretentiousness. Make no mistake, The Red Masque is certainly pretentious, with the narration sounding like something out of modern classical, the kind of stuff that survives due only to grants. At their best, though, which is most of the time on Feathers for Flesh, the Red Masque rocks out, and that is fun to listen to. While I feel their best work is ahead of them, they have come a long way in a few years and have leapfrogged most of the modern prog movement in artistic vision. Bravo.
The Red Masque is a four-piece ensemble that hails from Philadelphia that bridge the gulf between ReR experimentalism and outright gothic rock. Led by vocalist Lynnette Shelley and bassist Brandon Ross, the quartet is comfortable doing mysterious drones as well as creating dark medieval themes that map out depressing musical statements. The trio's delivery is not as dire as many a Devil Doll product, but that target audience will surely be one to embrace this set of five menacing tracks. Violinist Damian Boucher contributes some gypsy violin that works to great results on top of a cathedral style organ on "House of Ash" before the entire ensemble careens into the song. Guitarist Kiarash Emami serves up intense wailing on "Passage" that recalls many of Steve Hackett's intense moments before the piece settles into a lush vocal section. The mayhem continues on "Yellow are his Opening Eyes" where Shelley gives her best Gilli Smyth reading before heavy rock riffing begins. The piece does veer into a monastic multi-vocal section before returning to a powerful prog metal passage. "Beggars and Thieves" is a much-needed acoustic relief piece that merges folk rock with some odd improvisational elements using harpsichord and mandolin. Closing out the collection is the creepiest song on the disc which would fit nicely into any maniacal movie soundtrack. In summary, the band has created a pastiche of sound collages in no need of further refinement.
Expose Magazine, Issue No. 31, January 2005
When the new EP with the composition "Beggars & Thieves" by The Red Masque appeared on the market nothing augured the huge changes in the music of this Philadelphia-based group. However surprising and challenging the listeners with every new release seems to lie deep in their nature - if "Victoria & Haruspex" marked the period of acoustic experiments and improvisations, "Feathers for Flesh" sounds rather as a brilliant synthesis of all their past ideas, being the most mature and cohesive effort of the band so far.
The album is a masterpiece of composition and atmosphere - it seems to be divided into two oppositional parts : the "heavier" one - containing the first three long tracks, and the "calm" one - standing as a conclusion of the record. The former is based heavily on the contrast: noisy, disonant guitar play (Emami), monstrous bass (Ross) and massive drums (Vonorn) are confronted with light flute, "gothic" organs or floating vocal parts (Shelley). All tracks, though extremly complex and full of different ideas and musical arrangements, are hypnotizing the listener mostly with the atmosphere: dark, brooding and mysterious. One can hear on "Feathers for Flesh" the influences or similarities to King Crimson, Univers Zero, Present, or Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, however what I hear mostly is just The Red Masque. By supplementing the avant-prog core with elements of horror music and the fair dose of theatrical expression the band has managed to create their own unique sound that doesn't really match any other music I've heard before. Much credit goes to Lynnette Shelley who on "Feathers for Flesh" sings, screams, whispers, howls, wails, bewitches and Cthulhu knows whats more... And even if I think that four minutes of vocal intro to "Yellow Are His Opening Eyes" is a bit too much, Shelley has got the hypnotizing power to keep my attention with just her voice for the whole time... and when the other instruments join her with the heavy explosion of sounds I have no doubts that my heart and soul belongs to The Red Masque!!
Fortunately the calm part of the record is equally impressive. It begins with the above mentioned track - "Beggars & Thieves" - containing elements of medieval ballad, acoustic improvisation and some experimental appetizers. Beautiful, delicate and melodic composition that simultaneously doesn't fit into simple scheme of a song. Lasting almost ten minutes, full of non-typical sounds from even more non-typical instruments "Beggars & Thieves" is a progressive gem in a true meaning of that word! Finally the last one: "Scarlet Experiment" - short track reffering to modern minimal composition, which confronts atonal strings (probably it's the Chinese instrument called Ehru) with obsessed vocals by Shelley. A truly amazing conclusion of the surreal journey into dark and grotesque world of The Red Masque. A world that recently has been haunting me very often...
P.S. It's also worth mentioning that for the first time in the band's history the record has got really good sound and nice booklet (designed by the group members). Now everything should be clear - my progressive album of the year 2004.
— Dr Alcibiades, Tarkus & ArtRock.pl (thanks to the author for this English Translation. See original Polish verison here.)
Note: This review was originally published in Norwegian, but was kindly translated into English for TRM by Tarkus Magazine editor Sven Eriksen. To view of scan of the magazine review page, click here.
If any of you readers out there should happen to be christian, and sensitive in addition, please pardon my opening outcry: Oh, My God! From Pennsylvania hails a quartet without limitations to their purposes and without shame regarding norms and dogma within new rock. "Feathers" is TRM's fourth release, but the first really to convince me of the accomplishment of the impossible; here, almost every known progressive twist meet in a uniform, integrated expression which frightens you as much as it grabs you. In the course of 54 minutes, you hear theatrical and intricate RIO-constructions in the best Art Bears vein, noisy and intense Zeuhl like early Shub Niggurath, iron-heel avant-prog in the style of '74 King Crimson, even acoustic sympho-guitarism in pure Genesis vintage. All this wrapped in a pitch black science fiction goth image where the ususal ghostlike atmosphere at all times risk tilting over into violence and chaos.
The band line-up is straight enough; electric/acoustic guitar, bass, vocals and percussion. Three of them handles additional keyboards and various half-exotic devices, an external violin player also shows up. The voice of vocalist Lynnette Shelley is in the vein of Dagmar Krause and Jarboe (Swans), with the technique of the former and the richness of the latter - she is used for all she's worth in this nightmare scenario. The bassist Brandon Ross is mixed right in front with his rumbling version of Paganotti/Wetton, here he fights against drummer Vonorm in a monstrous show-off duel. The most modest of them is the guitarist Kiarash Emami whose discreet gateway takes Trigaux or the old Magmatician Gabriel Federow one step further. Together, these four musicians sound like a double orchestra, and I'm talking pure striking power here.
What's incredible about this album is that the group manages to mix all these initially diverging moods and perspectives. They go from VDGG-ish dissonance to seducing harmonies one minute, the next from sound collages to strict polyrhythmic ensemble playing. The tracks are outstretched and compact, with wide spans in stress and moods, always with great attention to detail and finesse - and extremely well produced.
The present time sees a flow of creative bands in the US, fronted by names like Thinking Plague, Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum, Bubblemath and Yeti. The Red Masque can easily be added, and "Feathers For Flesh" is for my money one of the four or five best prog albums so far this year. We live in a time where the masses devour dry and stereotyped opera metal of the sort Nightwish/Within Temptation, but this is a whole different story. A no-compromise undertaking based on vision and insight - and aimed at those who still see the value of dreaming. The light at the end of the tunnel, not the blackness in the middle.
— Rikard A Toftesund, Tarkus Magazine
Note: This review was originally published in Dutch, but was kindly translated into English for TRM by the reviewer. For the original Dutch text, please visit Prog Wereld's website through the link above.
The Red Masque is an eccentric avant-garde musical ensemble from the Philadelphia area. The band was founded in February 2001 by guitarist Steven Blumberg, keyboardist/harpist Nathan-Andrew Dewin, drummer Kevin Kelly, bassist/keyboardist Brandon Ross and vocalist Lynnette Shelley. Not long thereafter Kevin Kelly was replaced by drummer/multi-instrumentalist Brian "Vonorn" Van Korn. After the recordings for their debut album Steven Blumberg and Nathan-Andrew Dewin decided to leave the band, but shortly thereafter guitarist/keyboardist Kiarash Emami joined the remaining threesome. From the early beginnings of the band, their main goal is to try to make original music that exceeds even the highest expectations of the most demanding listener. The four bandmembers try to realise this very honourable objective by blending a huge variety of musical genres into their own music, like art-rock,folk, gothic, heavy metal, horror-soundtracks, krautrock, medieval music, progressive rock, psychedelic rock, rock-in-opposition, space rock, world music and zeuhl. This intense mixture results more than often in a type of dark and eerie progressive rock, that often scares the shit out off its listener. You now know why the band named themselves after a story by Edgar Allan Poe!
Feathers For Flesh is a multicoloured mishmash of numerous genres, that without doubt requires a number of listenings in order to judge the material on its genuine value. This is mainly caused by the bands unorthodox and unconventional musical approach. Their experimental songwriting style produces time and again dissonant and threatening instrumentations. These five pieces of music are more often than not made up of very bizarre arrangements, unusual melodies, multifaceted sounds and miserable moods. Therefore careless listening can easily grow into a real ordeal for the average and casual listener. Dont tell me I didnt warn you
Currently with only the exclusive attention from the more demanding, adventurous type of listener, I can tell him or her that as far as yours truly is concerned Feathers For Flesh is a tremendously sinister, forward-thinking work of art. After all the music of this unconventional American quartet is one of the reasons I like to listen to progressive music in general and progressive rock in particular. This record frequently provokes and challenges me, surpasses my imagination and surprises me in its resourcefulness. Like I said earlier this album definitely takes a couple of spins. However you dont have to be embarrassed for this. Even I needed more than the usual amount of spins to comprehend all of this strange material. But now I can fully appreciate this wonderful dark and dense recording.
Only after more than a couple of spins it becomes truly apparent in what kind of breathtaking way The Red Masque melts the energy of Anekdoten, the dynamism of Änglagård,the ferocity of Bauhaus, the occultism of Dead Can Dance, the wickedness of Devil Doll, the dismay of Goblin, the vitality of Gong, the excitement of Guapo, the eclecticism of King Crimson, the intensity of Magma, the repetitiveness of Pink Floyd, the devotion of Present, the mysticism of This Mortal Coil, the intellect of Univers Zero, the hysteria of Van Der Graaf Generator and the temptation of White Willow into one upsetting, but tremendously addicting musical mélange of gloomy and passionate sounds.The wide-ranging, frequently non-traditional rock instrumentation is an other reason why the album is so hard to digest in one single listen. There is for instance a real violin played by Damian Boucher on House Of Ash. Kiarash Emami played a modified American standard Fender Stratocaster electric guitar on all tracks, a Yamaha APX- 5NA classical guitar on Passage, an Oberheim Matrix-6R synthesizer and a Roland U-220 synthesizer on Yellow Are His Opening Eyes, and an Ovation Legend 1867 acoustic guitar and an Oscar Schmidt OM40 mandolin on Beggars & Thieves. Brandon Ross played an unique custom built Rickenbacker bass guitar on all tracks, a Kawai K1 keyboard with altered patches on Yellow Are His Opening Eyes, and an Yamaha APX-5NA classical guitar on Beggars & Thieves.
Brian Vonorn Van Korn played an Yamaha Studio series Blood Red drum kit and an Yamaha Motif 7 production keyboard (organ, acoustic and electric pianos, flutes, saxes and strings) on all tracks, a Big Briar Moog theremin on Passage, a Korg Karma keyboard, an Yamaha lime green electric bass guitar an a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar on Yellow Are His Opening Eyes, and an Ovation acoustic bass and a Big Briar Moog theremin on Beggars & Thieves. Lynnette Shelley played pots, pans, slinky toy, various kitchen utensils, the Conundrum (some kind of metal sculpture filled with liquid), a Boudrhain, a propane gas tank, a weird metal clothes hanger and air chimes on House Of Ash, a Boudrhain, a noisemaker and shakers on Beggars & Thieves, and a Chinese Erhu (a type of two-string violin), an out-of-tune bowed psaltery, the Conundrum and a Boudrhain on Scarlet Experiment.
With such extensive inventory of equipment a more than average production is indispensable to keep the colourful, frequently cacophonous sound spectrum under firm control. Fortunately Vonorn is a brilliant and skilled producer. Time after time I am surprised by this additional talent, because Feathers For Flesh sounds utterly outstanding. Its actually a pleasure to hear such an impressive piece of work with countless concealed surprises. Well done!
Feathers For Flesh confronts the exceptionally courageous progfan with an entire fresh challenge in the shape of five pieces of provoking music. These compositions are more or less rooted between King Crimson, Magma and Van Der Graaf Generator on the one side and Present and Univers Zero on the other side. The record offers some powerful tunes, without any compromise, that are meant for the most demanding music fan, who is looking for something more out of the ordinary than the first three bands and something less intense than the two Belgian ensembles.
By delicately integrating an enormous variety of different musical genres into their compositions, its really hard to classify the music of The Red Masque. Nevertheless I think Feathers For Flesh is particularly appropriate for fans of the darker side of progressive rock. The album unquestionably sounds extraordinary and versatile, but it includes a batch of elements that truly are appreciated by this aforementioned group of fans.
All in all this utterly breathtaking music made a profound impression on me and therefore I think its nothing short of an instant revelation. Now its up to you! Open your mind and try it! Please, dont forget to give it some time and youll certainly be rewarded! Dont miss it because its one of the highlights of 2004
— Frans Schmidt, Prog Wereld
rolusion."Feathers for Flesh" is the third official output by the US band THE RED MASQUE (the name evokes more than distinct associations with Edgar Allan Poe) and is their first release with the Washington State-based independent progressive label Big Balloon Music. Their previous albums are the EP "Death of the Red Masque" and the full-length CD "Victoria and the Haruspex".
Synopsis. I read several reviews of the band, in most of which their music is described as a mixture of delicate structures and freeform cacophony, melodic lines and random noises, etc. I can't call in question these definitions, as I haven't heard any previous outings by The Red Masque, but what I've heard on "Feathers for Flesh" has nothing to do with randomness nor any other free forms of music, not to mention cacophony, at least in my understanding. Well, the first fourth of the House of Ash (1) and the whole last track Scarlet Experiment (5) consist almost exclusively of 'flying' effects and ghost-like voices and whisperings, but all of them are done purposefully, creating an accurate and vivid tensely dark atmosphere in the intro to the album and the outro. There are plenty of highly eclectic and even eccentric arrangements on the album, yet, all of them, including those with a slight jazzy sense at the end of the third track, were thoroughly composed, without any frivolities typical for real improvisational music. Do you regard the most intricate compositions King Crimson played in 1973 and 1974 as Jazz-Fusion? I do not. I see this music as one of the very first manifestations of structural RIO, such a counterpart to the jazzier forms of the genre (have in mind Henry Cow), let alone Zeuhl.
The other bands that may come to mind while listening to the first two compositions, House of Ash and Passage, are Present, Presence, Antonius Rex, Anekdoten and Anglagard. So, the stuff is stylistically similar with that of King Crimson of said period and is a triple union of Symphonic Art-Rock, Cathedral Metal, and RIO plus a genuine musical magic as another clearly perceptible ingredient. Naturally, it couldn't go without the Mellotron sounds, though there also are those of Church organ, Hammond, piano, flute, violin and acoustic guitar, apart from traditional Rock instruments. Lynnette Shelley is a fantastically impressive chameleon singer, taking equally easy high and low notes, soft and sinister tones. The third epic: Yellow Are His Opening Eyes can be described-defined nearly the same way. The differences are as follows. There are only some wordless vocals, sung by Lynette alone and along with a male choir, and the bass solos are less pronouncedly heavy than those on the preceding tracks. (Please note this remark.) Finally, this composition doesn't evoke any associations, as well as its follow-up. The song Beggars & Thieves is another diamond in the crown of this compelling album, although it is almost free of 'infernal' features and is vastly different from the other contents in general. This is an acoustic Progressive filled with the spirit of medieval minstrel music. All the basic arrangements represent both complex and beautiful interplay between solos and passages of classical guitar and those of mandolin. There also are the Mellotron, bass, and mallet percussion, but they appear only episodically.
Conclusion. "Feathers for Flesh" is a masterpiece in form, content, and delivering together and is of no less significance for today's progressive scene than the best works of King Crimson were at the time of the genre's heyday and those by Anglagard in the '90s. Don't miss it. (Top-20)
— VM, Progressor