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The Masquerade come as something of an unknown quantity; while they are doubtless a crew of experienced musicians, most of their members don’t seem to have previous involvement in established projects and they have presumably spent some time sharpening their skills in the band’s previous incarnation as a covers act.
So with neither past reputations to lean on or unrealistic expectations to meet, ‘Redemption’ turns out to be a fairly pleasing listen, largely made up of layered and intricate power metal songs with some progressive flourishes. In an odd twist though, there also a few songs that have more of a simplistic rocking vibe that feels more NWOBHM influenced which is a bit rarer on the Italian scene. In the instrumental stakes at least, The Masquerade are a top-notch act, with drummer Matteo Maselli in particular putting in a hell of a shift full of syncopated flourishes and unusual fills and cymbal work, while the keyboards are both dextrous and admirably restrained.
“Restrained” is most definitely not something vocalist Alfonso Zurlo could be accused of though, as he spends much of the time in full-blown, foot-on-the-monitors, falsetto shrieking. It does get a bit grating from time to time, and often feels like he is trying to wring every last drop of emotion out of the songs, but there is no denying he has a powerful set of pipes.
His performance is somewhat indicative of the band as a whole, as while they couldn’t be accused of too much instrumental showboating, there is a hell of a lot packed into most of the songs, and not always to their benefit as the incessant galloping with little respite can at times become a little exhausting.
On those where it all comes together, The Masquerade are a force to be reckoned with, but while they very rarely do anything wrong – really, there are no bad songs on the CD at all – there are other occasions where things feel bloated and lacking in a central hook to bind everything together.
“Behind the mask” is probably the only true exception to the rule and is easily the shortest and most straightforward song on the CD, but tellingly is also one of the most memorable. Conversely though, the most overblown and pompous song of the lot is the pre-outro closer “Lady (d)evil” which belies its clunky title to deliver a prog/power tour-de-force full of Middle Eastern vibes, female vocals and delicate piano accompaniment.
The end result is a fairly patchy CD with a few songs that could have benefited from being sharpened a little before recording, but there is still the nuts and bolts of a good debut in here. It may be a little overcooked, but there are some fine songs and some really solid musicianship to be enjoyed.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)