Atlanta’s Mask the Wretch is a hardcore group that loves to rage against the machine. On the group’s latest album, Age of Deception, the four-piece rails against people who have no respect for one another in this fast-paced, rat-race society. Song after song, Mask the Wretch certainly has things to complain about. But that’s the usual shtick as far as hardcore goes, so no surprises there. What makes Age of Deception a strong release is that there’s a real ebb and flow to the disc, and just when you think it might be over, the group fades into an encore with “Scoundrel”. There’s an overwhelming sense of consistency, even when the band goes from a mid-tempo thump to a slow burn on “Unshielded”, recalling the sludge rock of Black Flag. Basically, this is an album you can nod your head to and raise your fist in the air to, so it’s perhaps a tad predictable. But there are no duds in the bunch, and there’s something intangibly appealing to Mask the Wretch.
There are no major songs that stick out and announce themselves, owing to the overall consistency of the record, but there are some nice moments sprinkled throughout. The bass on “Few and Far” sounds like the style of latter day Rush’s Geddy Lee with its funky thuka-thuka sound. There’s a pummeling crunch to “Aftershock” that offers spills and chills. The title track even boasts some thrash metal guitar, though when the drums come in, it’s essentially something that trudges along like a solider stomping his way through a muddy field. It’s telling that there’s a song here titled “Integrity”, and this is something that the band seems to possess in spades. All in all, Age of Deception is enjoyable, and though it’s not terribly innovative, it offers enough moments where you’ll wish you were in a club seeing these guy trudge though their material. The band’s feeling of intimacy, sheer power and heft gives listeners plenty to chew on, and that is a commendation of the highest order.