Released: 1995, Noise Records
Editors Note: Metal-Rules.com was founded in 1995 as a forward thinking site. Our goal is, and always has been, to support Real Metal. The decision was made that very rarely do we ever go back and review an album from before 1995. Does the world really need another CD review of Master Of Puppets, Powerslave or Screaming For Vengeance? We don’t think so. We have always supported what is happening now.
Starting in January, 2014, as we head towards the 20th Anniversary of Metal-Rules.com, we are looking back and filling in a few gaps in the review database. We want to complete the post-1995 review catalogue of some of the bands that we have supported since 1995, when very few, if any websites were supporting real Metal. It’s fun to go back and revisit some of these albums that we did not review when they were first released. Enjoy!
Some people say that MASQUERADE was the last really good Running Wild album. I don’t completely agree, but I do understand why some people feel that way. In a slightly less pessimistic view I’d say it was the beginning of the end of the golden age of piracy. MASQUERADE was the start of a three part series of albums all loosely based on the Napoleonic era, followed by THE RIVALRY in 1998 and VICTORY in 2000. The move away from the bands ‘second-era’ sound and lyrics of pirate-themed Metal (six albums from 1987-1994) was not as well received, and some people unfairly discounted this album.
Running Wild was still at home on Noise Records and the line-up hadn’t changed in a few years, which was rare for the band. The Kasperack, Hermann (guitar), Smuszynski (bass), Michael (drums) line-up actually lasted longer than any other incarnation of the band, but still it was only a mere four years, spanning three albums. The album cover was another Andreas Marshall masterpiece, depicting the (un)holy trinity of the Church, the Military and the Law (Justice) that was the constant enemy (lyrically speaking) of Running Wild. It is not as if the band completely abandons the lyrics of piracy but they expand to cover broader topics of shall we say the golden age of conquest and high adventure. They do also cover more modern topics such as the Men In Black, conspiracies and the existence of UFO’s, all under a broad umbrella of rebellion against an oppressive system of rule by corrupt greedy men.
MASQUERADE is the bands 10th album and sees them return to Horus Sound in Germany with Rock ‘n’ Rolf taking the reins as producer. This was the bands second time in Horus and they obviously liked the sound because it became the bands go studio for a decade and a string of five albums. The album opens with a creepy, atmospheric spoken words piece about three men (a General, a Judge and a Priest) making a pact with Satan and then bleeding into keyboard driven instrumental, before hitting the first proper song, ‘Masquerade’.
Track after track Rock ‘n’ Rolf offers up slabs of Teutonic Metal, thundering along in the mid-pace to fast zone, with his omnipresent buzzing guitar and throaty voice leading the way. There is very little in the way of variation in the Running Wild song structure. Most songs sitting in the five minute range, good solos , pretty straight up drumming, not too many frills. The vocal lines and melodies add a bit more distinction but I will admit the songwriting was stronger (at least more diversified) on the 1987-1994 era. ‘Rebel At Heart’ nicely captures the imagination with a strong sing-along chorus as does ‘Metalhead’. Across the whole album Rolf’s guitar tone is fully intact, which is really a large part of the Running Wild signature sound.
In my mind MASQUERADE sits comfortably in the middle of the pack of Running Wild’s 15 (as of the time of writing) albums, some better, some much worse. MASQUERADE perhaps suffers only from the sole fault of a bit of song-writing complacency but still a worthy album for fans.