Black Masquerade - Spread Your Wings
Metal Master Records
Melodic Power Metal with Neo-Classical Influences
10 songs (41'41)
Release year: 2005
Black Masquerade
Reviewed by Marty
Black Masquerade, led by guitarist/songwriter Yoshihiro Nitta, has become one of the top power metal hopefuls in their home country of Japan. Other countries like Korea have also embraced this band in a big way and their poplarity in those two countries helped sell out all the copies of their first E.P. Another Place, released late last year. Spread Your Wings is the first full length release from these relative newcomers to the power metal scene.

Right from the big thematic opening instrumental track, I sensed a strong Brian May (Queen) influence with Yoshihiro's guitar playing with the massive harmonized guitar orchestrations. Many facets of his guitar playing also remind me of Ritchie Blackmore and Yngwie Malmsteen as far as the speedy neo-classical influences. Unlike Yngwie, he opts for lots of tasteful melodies in his lead solos that alternate between fast, precise shredding scales and very expressive passages with an amazing vibrato. Everything about his playing as far as the guitar riffs, harmonized melodic lead passages and the soaring quality of his technique comes right out of the 80's. His guitar work really is the one highlight of this album. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the band but with a shoddy production (barely above demo quality) that has almost no bass guitar and one that makes the drums very difficult to hear, it's very clear (to me anyhow) that this band is more of a showcase for Yoshihiro's guitar talent. Vocalist Takashi Sakaguchi tries very much to portray the big power metal vocalist but is constantly off-key and downright irritating. Lots of harmonized vocals are splashed all through their songs and are strategically placed at the higher parts where his voice really starts to strain. Picture Edguy's Tobias Sammett as a teenager walking in to take his first vocal lesson and maybe, just maybe you might get an idea of how this guy sounds. I realize there's a language barrier with them being Japanese and trying to sing in English but aside from a few words in each song, I have no idea what he's singing even during the chorus sections. The band tries their hand at a retro Rainbow/Yngwie neo-classical style on a couple of tracks, using synthesizers and Hammond organ with limited success but a few of the tracks really do have some potential. Another Place borrows a little from the Angel Dust style of booming heavy riffs sprinkled with keyboards and Prisoner Of Dark has an abstract Queensryche style with the riffs and an overall solid arrangement. Skin And Bones as well as Land Of Freedom try their hand at more speedy melodic power metal with Land Of Freedom "borrowing" some of the vocal melodies from the chorus section of Helloween's Eagle Fly Free. The whole album generally has the feel of mid 80's Yngwie (Trilogy/Odyssey albums) with some Dokken style vocal harmonies and a little Rainbow and Helloween thrown in for good measure

I find very little of substance with Black Masquerade's music. Some of the riffs are cool and again, Yoshihiro Nitta might just be on his way to becoming the next power metal guitar god. The arrangements and song structures are fairly sound for a new band, however a lot of work is needed to get a better production next time and a solid performance vocally. After about 4 or 5 listens, there's only a few vocal melodies that sound appealing with the rest being just irritating and getting in the way of Yoshihiro's guitar solos and harmonies. Hidden beneath all the shortcomings of Black Masquerade’s first album, there are in fact glimpses of something that could develop some day. If they can build on that and improve with their next album then maybe we may have something here...........

Killing Songs :
Marty quoted 60 / 100
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