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Just when you thought they were infallible, after releasing masterpiece after masterpiece, they give you this. A watered-out copy of their former greatness.
Masquerade really is pretty much the same thing as they did on Black Hand Inn- they stopped the tradition of taking it one step further, and just made the same album again. And they just don't have enough ideas for two albums with the same thing, no matter how good that thing might be. The riffs are just as fast, the choruses are anthemic and big, the drumming is fast and intense, but the feeling just isn't there. More than half the album seems to be completely without heart and soul put into the songwriting. The speed and intensity and all the classic Running Wild elements are there, but that little extra something that made all the other albums what they are, seems to have mysteriously vanished.
Right from the intro you can see that they're running out of ideas. The Contract/The Crypts of Hades begins with a completely ridiculous spoken section. "Are you willing to tell man lies about the world's past, how he was made, and suppress the truth for all times?" "Yes master." And so on. Throughout the entire album, the lyrics deal with exaggerated lyrics about how the governments care only about money and they are all corrupt and conspiring. Oh, and some of the lyrics deal with prejudice, too. This was a fun niche that they used, but till now was overshadowed by the pirate themes. Now it's become the main focus of pretty much every song, and instead of being a fun niche just becomes ridiculous and repetitive.
Songs like Black Soul, Demonized, Black Soul, Metalhead, Men In Black and Underworld all feature these elements: Soulless songwriting and moronic lyrics, and all this crap just bores me to death.
Actually, Black Soul has a very nice main riff and verses, but the bridge and chorus completely ruins it, mostly cause of those stupid lyrics: "Black soul you're breathing the poison of evil. Delusions of grandeur, the soul-eating plague." Yeah, yeah, there are mean people, but there are enough lyrics about them already, and much better too. Sing about pirates, for fucks sake!
However, it's not all crap on here. Some of the songs on here are actually good. The best song on here is by far the title track, which is a pretty mediocre track by Running Wild standards but on here seems like a speed metal masterpiece. Lions of the Sea features some nice atmosphere and riffs, but really schizophrenic lyrics, unable to decide whether to sing about pirates or oppression of mean people. Rebel At Heart is a nice midpaced tune with a pretty catchy chorus. And finally, the last of the good songs on here, Wheel of Doom, which is more average speed metal with yet another catchy chorus but more stupid lyrics.
Nope, this just doesn't cut it. They have to try much harder to impress me- like they did on the last couple of albums. Not recommended at all.