If a picture truly does paint a thousand words, then some of the promo pictures produced by Scottish rockers Mason Hill to plug debut album ‘Against The Wall’ go one step further. The five band members lined up alongside each other, with fingers crossed over their mouths preventing themselves from speaking. If an outside observer with no prior knowledge of the issues that the hotly-tipped outfit has faced over the last few years, stumbled across the image (which continues to an extent on the album sleeve), then they would hazard a guess that the band had been silenced. Only the parties involved know what happened between Mason Hill and Frontiers Records, but the young band gained invaluable experience from a tough time that might have broken many bands, and most importantly dusted themselves off and got back to doing what they set out to do: create music.
Had Mason Hill been able to record their debut album when people were clamouring for it five years ago, then it certainly would have sounded different to Mason Hill circa 2021. The imagery of having a second chance, and how periods of anguish won’t last forever, runs through the entire album. The short opening track ‘Reborn (Prolouge’) hints that the band has been brought back to life, vocalist Scott Taylor stating “…the end you seek is near…” before the track seeps into ‘No Regret’ where he confides that “…this life has taken its toll, I guess we’ve been here once before…”, before adding… “..time to sign your life away, no regret for yesterday…”. Honest to a fault, and lest we forget that Mason Hill are all still only a young band and have had to face unimaginable heartache during a period in their life when they should have been making bigger waves throughout the music scene.
Musically, Mason Hill doesn’t shy too far from the current modern American rock scene. With Shinedown going down more of an electronic route on their last few albums, fans looking for a shot of ‘Sound of Madness’ era SD could do worse than turning their attention to Mason Hill; ‘Who We Are’ and ‘Hold On’ are both particularly reminiscent of the multi-platinum Floridian outfit. ‘Against The Wall’ has plenty of moments to grab the attention of those across the pond and it’s quite easy to imagine a poster for Rock On The Range Festival 2022 that has Mason Hill underneath Shinedown, Alter Bridge, Godsmack, Breaking Benjamin, etc.
The guitar work throughout the album meshes up many different tones to stunning effect (especially the grungier tones on ‘No Regret’, and the gradual, ascending licks on the title track), and helps bring that duality of being able to keep the rockers happy while not scaring casual listeners who tuned in by mistake on drivetime radio. Check out ‘Broken Son’, a wonderful piece of modern rock with melodic, retro flashbacks as well as some Papa Roach-esque gang-vocals, or the drum-heavy ‘D.N.A.’ which although it strays a bit too-far to Black Stone Cherry territory with the runaway-train guitars, possesses soaring vocal hooks to-die-for and the angry punk-ish gang vocals hit the right spot. Drummers are very rarely in the spotlight but in Craig McFetridge Mason Hill have a young drummer of the highest quality and he shines throughout the album (‘Find My Way’ and his subtle work on ‘Out of Reach’ especially ticking all the right boxes).
In times of adversity, when someone’s back is ‘Against The Wall’ their true character emerges, and undoubtedly Mason Hill has emerged from the whole scenario battle-scarred, but older, wiser, and with better songs. They just need some luck now, but given how precarious the live music situation is at the minute, those plans might need to be on hold for a little while longer.
‘Against The Wall’ is available March 5th, buy direct from the band here.
Review – Dave