Talk about veterans of the genre. Thousand Foot Krutch is a staple of the Christian rock scene,
and though the lineup has changed erratically since the band's start (vocalist Trevor McNevan being the only founding member still
active), the band has always been well-respected for their shameless lyrical honesty as well as their inhibitions to rock hard.
With a grand track record behind them, the bar has been raised. Does Welcome To The Masquerade, their
fifth major release, continue the trends that made TFK the monumental Christian rock legends they are?
The answer: yes, and then some.
"The Invitation" serves as the lead-in intro to the title track, and while usually I don't care for intro tracks, this one
works well to give the whole album a strong, epic beginning. From the intro, we are led into the opening riff to "Welcome To
The Masquerade." It's pounding and intense, perfectly starting things out. After this point, it should be apparent to a
seasoned listener of the band that Welcome To The Masquerade is a much more produced effort than previous ventures.
While the sound is more polished, the band's signature edginess is retained, and this makes for an amazing result.
"Fire It Up" follows, and this is the track that really proves to be one of the best implemented on the record. The whole
"pump-it-up" concept for songs has been done time and time again, but here, Thousand Foot Krutch has taken it to a whole new
level. With a monster guitar riff and aggressive vocals to accompany it, it's the perfect party starter. The lyrics aren't
particularly deep or profound, for the type of song that it is, they fit like a glove ("I've got a bad case of turning it up/It's
getting cold in here, so somebody fire it up"). Next up is "Bring Me To Life." When I heard this track through
Taco Bell's Feed the Beat contest (of which TFK was one of the three winners, I might add), I thought it was quite epic,
maybe too epic for a single, as well as believed the sound to be somewhat pretentious. In hearing the whole album straight
through, however, its place in the track-listing fits quite well. "E For Extinction" continues the fast-paced hard sound, and
lyrically, it's one of the more innovative songs on the release. The fast-paced melodies show up later in "The Part That Hurts
the Most (Is Me)" and "Scream," both of which are as meaningful and hard-rocking as the previous tracks, without managing
to fall into going through the motions.
TFK slows things down a bit on a few occasions, as well. "Watching Over Me" acknowledges the Lord's presence and concern
for our well-being in the midst of adversity ("I know You're out there, and I know You care, 'cause I feel you like an angel
watching over me"). It's almost Skillet-esque in composition, but there's enough distinctiveness to not fall into a mold.
"Look Away" is another slower ballad, which almost seems more akin to an FM Static (McNevan's side project with drummer Steve
Augustine) track than it does a TFK one, but nonetheless, it's a very inspirational track in the bunch. Speaking of
inspirational, "Forward Motion" is probably the most inspirational track on the disc, and that's saying a lot taking into
account the whole album's optimistic concept. It's actually a very unique track musically, with the dirty guitar sound mixed
with some pop flavorings. It just proves further how versatile Thousand Foot Krutch really is, as they can even pull off a
"pop" sound with dexterity. While the tracks "Outta Control" and "Smack Down" are admittedly not quite as memorable as the rest
of the album, they are still tracks I could see being fan favorites in the future, especially "Smack Down" (Yes, the title says
it all; it's an arena anthem in every sense of the word.) "Already Home" closes the 13-track set, and it could not have been
executed better as a closer to complete this fantastic album.
Lyrically, this is the album for those who need encouragement. The titles of the songs give it away completely ("Bring Me
To Life," "Already Home," "Watching Over Me" just sound like optimistic titles, don't they?), and with the theme of
uncovering our shames and secrets throughout, the title of the album correlates flawlessly. And while this element to the
record is of the least importance and doesn't reflect the music itself, to top it all off, Welcome To The Masquerade's
cover artwork is some of the best I've seen in years. Besides its obvious connection to the album's title, it's edgy, epic,
charismatic, and charmingly misleading.
All in all, TFK dons a more produced approach to hard rock this time around while at the same time maintaining the
unrestrained and raucous vibe the band is known for. And this being the fifth album from the Canadian band, there's a
progression here that many old and new fans have waited to hear. What's made the difference? Could the return of Aaron
Sprinkle as producer be the reason (who also produced the much-acclaimed Phenomenon), or has the band just hit an apex
musically through their experience? Welcome To The Masquerade has taken everything that made the band great and
turned it all up by a few notches. While moving forward, they don't forsake their previous work either (the flame emblem from
the last album's cover is highlighted here as well). But it's the little improvements that go a long way, and Thousand Foot
Krutch has crafted a record that will go down as one of the best, if not the best, of their career.
- Review date: 9/5/09, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Since their Tooth & Nail Records debut, Phenomenon, in 2003, Canadian rock outfit Thousand Foot Krutch have gone
through stylistic and member changes as they continue to evolve their hard rock sound. Their last two
efforts, The Art Of Breaking and The Flame In All Of Us, were arguably more underwhelming than the aforementioned
debut, but both were not without their highlights. The band's fourth Tooth & Nail outing, Welcome To The Masquerade,
seems to combine just about every one of the band's strong points into one album. From the abrupt intro "The Invitation" into the pounding title
track, to the blazing "Fire It Up" and even the WWE-ready anthem "Smack Down," there are more than just a few moments on
Masquerade that pack a punch. While TFK use some of the familiar traits that fans love, there are plenty of fresh elements
incorporated (and a crisp but edgy production) to make the record an instant highlight ("E For Extinction," the mellow
"Watching Over Me," the rocker "Scream," the radio-ready pop gem "Forward Motion," and the beautiful violin-layered closer,
"Already Home"). If you can only afford one hard rock record in the coming weeks, there's no mistaking that Welcome To
The Masquerade delivers, and it doesn't disappoint.
- John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com