Mask of Prospero – Hiraeth Review

According to the promo, “Hiraeth” is a Welsh description of pain: “…a mixture of longing, referring to the sense of homesickness tinged with grief and sorrow over the loss. A yearning for that which has passed.” Mask of Prospero channel this grief into their sophomore effort Hiraeth, crisp metalcore weaponized with progressive metal to a complex and atmospheric degree. Thick riffs with a uniquely wonky tone, melodic synths, rabid and soothing vocal dichotomies, balanced out by just enough thoughtful darkness, lay gently and brutally upon the ears, prompting enough technicality without alienation and melody without complacency. Oh wait, it’s not 2010? Okay, Hiraeth is just djent.

Perhaps opener “Divided” will clue you in on Greek quintet Mask of Prospero’s bag of tricks. If you know djent, you know what to expect, but to its credit, Hiraeth makes a firm statement to kick things off. Punchy riffs courtesy of guitarists Panagiotis Kottaras and Nikos Letsios meet Andreas Kalogeras’ complex drumming, undergirded by Aggelos Malisovas’ warm and technical fretless bass, driven by Chris Kontoulis’ frantic barks. While perhaps nothing you wouldn’t see in a djent album released in 2014, recalling anything from TesseracT to Monuments, it’s tight, crispy, dynamic, and enjoyable – for about fifty-four seconds. While Kontoulis’ fry vocals don’t scream unique, his cleans make me feel swept back to a Hot Topic in 2009, howling right along to Asking Alexandria’s “Not the American Average.” Ultimately, Hiraeth is decently composed at best, painful and embarrassing at worst, and generically boring most of the time – all the djent tropes and a need for a better clean vocal approach.

As you might expect, the best tracks on Hiraeth focus on the cutthroat or the atmospheric – very little in between. “Hourglass,” “Lament,” and “Exile” all feature the sweet spot among atmosphere, melody, and relentless riffs, recalling a more uplifting and melodic Vildhjarta. Mask of Prospero sparingly uses breakdowns, elevating “Exile” to a punchy conclusion and used in the buildup in the satisfying trek of “Lament.” On the flipside, the more subdued “Kyma” and prog-rock-focused “Lethe” benefit from Kontoulis’ soft croons, feeling raw and vulnerable in the stunning wash of atmospheric beats. Malisovas’ bass is an easy highlight, executed with spectacular warmth and technicality across the album’s forty-two minutes. While adding depth to the riffs, the fills and slides are always audible beneath the crunch and carry the more subdued dynamics. As such, the mix for the instrumentals is nearly perfect, the drums always audible, the riffs crisp and heavy, while the bass always adds a warm offset to the jagged djent rhythms – although the melodic leads can get lost in the thickness.

Nearly every track features a moment of uncertainty – usually due to Kontoulis’ vocals. The mix favors the instrumentals, does not do him any justice, putting the strained post-hardcore-inspired cleans front and center. Tracks like “Divided,” “Exile,” and “Lethe” are all derailed to some extent by these his jarringly loud and strained performance against the relatively gentle atmosphere. Perhaps divisive in its own right, “Amal” is a gentle atmospheric piece with background riffs, but Kontoulis utilizes a warbling vibrato that offers an awkward enthusiasm or perhaps injects an exotic flavor into the track. Mask of Prospero’s next sin is that in spite of doing djent competently, riffs in tracks like “Lethe,” “Divided,” and closer “Horeeya” offer only marginal rhythmic interest, and end up dragging their respective sounds down with overly simplistic djunz. All effort feels wasted, as Hiraeth feels about twelve years too late, Mask of Prospero dwelling in the thin shadow of niche atmo-djent acts like TesseracT, Uneven Structures, and Monuments, all of whom have established firm foundations thanks to a charismatic vocalist or a unique guitar attack – leaving the generic Mask of Prospero by the wayside.

Hiraeth certainly has their fair share of intrigue: “Lament” and “Hourglass” neatly balance riff and atmosphere while “Kyma” and “Lethe” feature rawness, while the bass carries the sound with subtlety and technicality. However, too often Mask of Prospero is dragged down by subpar vocals or generic djent riffs to warrant a solid recommendation. Stuck in the past with djent and metalcore stereotypes alike without a clear handle on either, Hiraeth may channel grief and homesickness, but I’m tired of it. Can I go home now?

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Sound Pollution
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 27th, 2023

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