Mask of Judas are a progressive metal outfit from Chichester, England.

Blending tech and groove, their mini-album Axis offers five tracks of unadulterated aggression, thick with heavy guitars and an ear-splintering rhythm section.

Axis starts off well with the musical whirlwind Crown the Sun, but the second track Endeavour largely relies on chugging riffs that don’t feel all that fresh. In fact, this is something of an Achille’s heel throughout the whole record. There are some moments when Mask of Judas fling the creative window open, and others where they just return to predictable tropes, which quickly become tired.

This causes the record as a whole to be a little hit and miss; while some moments are very memorable, others don’t break the mould.

But it is an exciting release overall; the pace at which songs are delivered is boundlessly energetic – being only five tracks long, Axis is a shotgun blast of action. It’s over quickly, but hopefully Mask of Judas will pull the trigger again before too long, and with any luck, that will be on a full album. In the meantime, they’ll be playing at Bloodstock Festival this summer, on the New Blood Stage.

It’s great to see another good metal band who are fronted by a woman, as it is still something of a rarity. Jo Challen sings, and supplies death growls which could hold up in a contest against Arch Enemy frontwoman Angela Gossow. It’s really quite refreshing to hear female vocals on a metal record, particularly in the middle section of Crown the Sun, where both styles are juxtaposed to great effect. Challen’s cleans are particularly interesting, and are offset well against the music. They call to mind the intriguing melodies of Emilie Autumn, but since they are placed against a heavier background, they offer something quite original.

I also happen to be a big fan of extended range guitars, and Mask of Judas use some pretty sweet eight-strings, the advantage here is that it gives them a tonal range all the way down to a very deep low-end, while retaining versatility by keeping all the treble access intact. Notable groups now using eight-strings include luminaries Meshuggah and progressive virtuosos Animals as Leaders. Mask of Judas utilise their extra strings well, treating the listener to an awesome array of crushing riffs and blazing leads.

The band have put together a video for title track Axis, and you can watch it here:

Note that you can also download the single Crown the Sun for free via the groups Bandcamp, or, if you decide that you enjoy the song, you can make a payment of your choice to the band.

Axis is a short glimpse into the chaotic sound of Mask of Judas. In 15 minutes, the listener is taken on a whistle-stop tour of their thickset, brawny music.

Hopefully, the release of Axis will help to see the band into a well-deserved spot with a label.