Over the course of several albums, remixes, and collaborations with the likes of Dogtablet, Blindcopy, and Melodywhore, Sapphira Vee has proven herself a force to be reckoned with. The Mask stands as her fourth solo outing, created during the lockdowns of 2020 and presenting a poignant and darkly engaging brand of electro/industrial that is at times ethereal, and at other times discordant and, alas, a bit monotonous.
For instance, on a track like “Mask of Happy,” although the angelic pads contrast nicely with Vee’s breathy vocal mid-range, the syncopation of the rolling bass seems to be following its own rhythm separate from the cadence of the vocals or the rest of the instrumental, as if fighting for dominance in the mix, while other songs like “Addict,” “Fearless,” and “Alone” all begin strongly and are in no shortage of lush sound design and excellent tonal layers, but sadly, they don’t offer much variation after a couple of minutes, bogging the songs down in repetition that doesn’t do justice to the power of Vee’s ghostly vocal delivery, which many are sure to liken to Collide’s kaRIN or Shikhee of Android Lust. Other tracks, from the opening “World My Voice” with its smoky lounge quality and gritty roars of guitar and stabs of orchestra hits, “Darkness” with its distorted mechanical beat, vibrant synth bass, and chiming guitars, or the galloping percussion and swells of pads and pulsating electronics as Vee’s voice dances around a simple but effective bass line and flourishes of Pan-like flutes on “Hide From Me,” all bear a distinctly ‘90s flair that adds to their inherent catchiness, the latter proving to be one of the best songs on The Mask. The same can be said for the booming “No Remorse” and especially “This Time,” which features Vee collaborating with The Joy Thieves; with its steely layers of caustic bass, ringing guitar leads, and the beautiful harmonization of vocal and piano lines, the song’s dark fury is simply outstanding.
The Mask concludes with a series of remixes, with The Joy Thieves’ rendition of “Greed” and Melodywhore’s In Clarity remix of “Darkness” standing in this writer’s opinion as the best of the bunch, and indeed, two of the best tracks on the album. Overall, The Mask does well to progress from where Vee left off with The Game as her evocative songwriting chops have certainly developed to a more streamlined approach, despite the somewhat primeval sonic palette and the aforementioned issues with monotony. Add to that a skillful mastering job from Jules Seifert, and what you have is a strong fourth outing from an artist worthy of greater recognition.