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
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