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      Mort Garson / Lucifer

      Black Mass

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      Black Mass Review

      by Paul Simpson

      Two years after Mort Garson composed and arranged an entire series of albums based on the 12 zodiac signs, the pioneering electronic musician delved into the occult with the 1971 LP Black Mass, simply credited to the artist name Lucifer. Originally issued by UNI Records, the release has often confused record store patrons who have stumbled upon it -- it isn't a recording of an actual Satanic mass (Anton LaVey released the first one in 1968) nor is it a doom metal album. Instead, it's a soundtrack-like set of haunting Moog-based pieces which interpret various supernatural and demonic themes. While it's hard to tell exactly what Garson's perspective on the album's subject matter was, it's easy to assume that he was merely fascinated by the occult rather than someone who actively held Satanic beliefs or practiced such rituals. Far from a set of bleak dirges, the album expresses wonder and excitement, with melodies which bubble and percolate along with skittering drum machine rhythms. "The Ride of Aida (Voodoo)" opens with freakish, distorted vocals similar to the ones Giorgio Moroder would use on his experimental LP as Einzelganger in 1975, then proceeds with a frenzied rhythm as the synths gradually sound like alarms going off. "Witch Trial" begins with a pleasant, nearly Baroque melody before a more sci-fi atmosphere sets in, and after everything goes still for a moment, a more windswept variation of the original melody returns. "Exorcism" sounds downright celebratory, as a spirited synth solo pans between the speakers over a dancing rhythm set in a fractured time signature. The record generally feels mildly spooky rather than truly horrifying, although the possessed moaning of the self-explanatory "Incubus" is certainly disturbing. Still, it seems like Garson's intention with Black Mass wasn't so much about shock value, but rather a genuine curiosity and interest in the subject, and the album remains one of the most accomplished items in his discography.

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