In memoriam: Massive Ego breaks up

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On Monday, Out of Line Music shared the unexpected news that one of their artists, the dark synth project Massive Ego, is no more. Prior to the announcement, Massive Ego deleted all of their social media channels and their band’s website, leaving fans completely cut off from any communication with the band.

This is the only official statement from Massive Ego:

“Due to health issues and personal circumstances Massive Ego have decided to end the band and will no longer be making music together. We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey with us as much as we’ve enjoyed performing for you and we hope you’ll keep our music close to your hearts. For everyone that has ever supported us we are grateful.”

The timing of Massive Ego’s breakup is particularly shocking. They recently announced a new lineup, released a new EP just a few weeks ago, and they were scheduled to perform at this year’s Out of Line Weekender festival in Berlin. That appearance is now cancelled.

Massive Ego leaves behind a legacy that includes three full-length albums, a compilation album, numerous covers of synthpop classics, and a handful of EPs and singles. Not just known for their eccentric goth-tinted electropop, they’re instantly memorable for frontman Marc Massive’s flamboyant, avant-garde style that included a “geisha Mickey” headpiece.

The origin of Massive Ego

Massive Ego formed in the UK in 1996. Though its lineup changed several times throughout their career, the one constant has been singer Marc Massive.

Marc grew up in the ’80s listening to New Wave bands like Depeche Mode, Dead or Alive, and his favorite, Duran Duran. Though he missed the New Romantic period that emerged around the Blitz nightclub in London’s Covent Garden, he idolized the glamorous and androgynous look of famous Blitz Kids like Steve Strange and Boy George—someone he’d eventually meet and work with.

Marc formed the original Massive Ego lineup with his school friend Andy J. Thirwall and bandmembers they recruited to play guitar and drums, but the lineup evolved frequently as Massive Ego forged their sound and Marc honed his songwriting.

Massive Ego’s earliest releases are high-energy, Eurodance-style cover songs of ’80s classics like Animotion’s “Obsession” and Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth.” Those covers form the foundation of Massive Ego’s first album, Nite Klub Skewl.

Massive Ego takes a darker direction

In 2011, Massive Ego adopted a darker electronic sound, and their popularity began to grow in the goth-industrial scene. They released “I Idolize You,” a song about the dark side of fame that remains their most popular track.

Oliver Frost, Marc’s partner, had become a member of the band in 2004, first joining as its keyboardist until he switched to percussion—he was the band’s longest tenured member besides Marc. One of the things I’ve long admired about Massive Ego is that they were unabashedly, positively queer.

Massive Ego’s best known lineup was a quartet consisting of Marc, Oliver, and musicians Lloyd Price and Scot Collins. In 2017, they released their breakthrough album, a double LP for Out of Line called Beautiful Suicide. It contains “I Idolize You,” “Low Life,” and the Boy George-penned track “Let Go.”

In 2019, Massive Ego, now a trio, released their final full-length, Church for the Malfunctioned. It features a cover of And One’s “Military Fashion Show” and the songs “Digital Heroin” and “My Religion is Dark,” which I included in my countdown of the best synthpop songs of 2019. Those “HAH! HAH! HAH!” moments in the song sound incredibly fierce.

Massive Ego’s final release

In February 2022, Massive Ego unveiled their final release, a five-track EP called The New Normal.

The EP was preceded by its first single, a controversial track called “You Will Comply.” Many synthpop fans, myself among them, interpreted the song’s lyrics and its accompanying music video featuring ominous looking needles to be anti-vax, which I found to be incredibly irresponsible at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the record, Massive Ego said in interviews that the song is not an anti-vaccine statement. It’s unclear if the controversy surrounding “You Will Comply” contributed to their breakup, and it’s unfortunate that the song has tainted their legacy.

Despite my misgivings about the first track, I was willing to give The New Normal a listen. Fortunately, they didn’t go the full Naghavi, and the rest of the EP avoids vaccines, COVID-19, and bad science. My favorite track from The New Normal is “Fake Star,” which considers the impact of satellites polluting the night sky.

Marc Massive guest spots

As Massive Ego’s popularity grew in the goth-industrial scene, Marc provided featured vocals on a number of releases from other artists who make dark electronic and synthpop music.

In 2020, Marc joined Blutengel for their anthemic track “Nothing But a Void” that found him trading vocals with Chris Pohl. He appeared the following year on an Ashbury Heights single called “One Trick Pony” that I included in my countdown of the best synthpop songs of 2021.

Massive Ego has one last dance. In late March, the darkwave duo Corlyx will release a new single called “Raindrops” that they made in collaboration with Massive Ego before the band’s demise.

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