Masters Of Disguise – Back With A Vengeance

March 5, 2014 in Reviews by blackwindmetal

Masters Of Disguise - Back With A VengeanceMasters Of Diguise – Back With A Vengeance (2013)

Reviewed by Daniel Millard

Originally brought to my attention by Limb Music’s promotional system, I ignored Masters Of Disguise for a little while based on a few song samples and the (per my opinion) off-putting cover artwork. However, after hearing singer Alexx Stahl on last year’s release from Lucid Dreaming, my curiosity was piqued further. The band is a collection of five rough guys hailing from various backgrounds in the metal scene (including drummer Andreas Neuderth, a fairly recent addition to Manilla Road), and sharing former metal tribute band Roxxcalibur as common ground. More importantly yet, (and directly applicable to this release), all (save Stahl) shared live duties for US power/speed band Savage Grace. Without going into too much detail here, this band’s debut seems to be something of an homage to Savage Grace’s pair of albums from the 1980’s, of which the members are clearly fans.

With all of this in mind, you might imagine that Back With A Vengeance is a fairly straightforward modern speed metal affair. There’s an impressive amount of riffage spewed forth from the strings of Roger Dequis and Kalli Coldsmith – enough so that this album seems a clear winner for traditional German and US power metal fans right out of the gate. Being of somewhat less predictable taste myself, I appreciate the riffage, but was shopping for a bit more.

I somewhat got it from Stahl who, if I may be permitted to say, is singing well beneath his potential as a trained vocalist with all the screaming and shrieking going on here – which isn’t to dismiss those vocals. However, Stahl is easily at his best when singing in his surprisingly smooth and gracious clean tenor, which doesn’t pop up nearly as often as I’d like on an album like this. Additionally, as this work is highly guitar-focused and lacks the sort of captivating chorus melodies more common in Euro-power, he’s cutting loose a great deal (just listen to the cover of “Scepters Of Deceit!”) without accumulating a great deal of memorable lines. He’s also a emotionally-charge singer, and on this album, that means he comes across as fairly one-dimensional.

Memorability in general is my struggle with this album. Sure the guitar play is there, sure the high-pitched vocal antics are enjoyable, but none of it lasts for all too long. This is almost certainly my general (but not all-encompassing) preference for other styles of power metal rearing its head, but Back With A Vengeance lacks hooks, and without them, it lacks a good deal of my persistent attention. Let’s be fair though, this is a respectable to very good USPM-style release, and doesn’t deserve to be knocked. Even I can access songs like “Sons Of The Doomed”, and Stahl’s vocals are a treat.

While this album was advertised as being another Germanic power metal release on Limb’s roster, I strongly recommend that it be viewed in a different light, lest listeners be misled in the same way I have been. I do not advise that Euro-power fans make this a priority, but those enjoying the catalogs of bands like Liege Lord, Armored Saint, and the like will probably get quite a kick out of it. By my admittedly picky standards for this sort of thing, it’s not half bad, but I’ll selfishly confess that I’d love to see Stahl at the helm of a more subtle, melodic machine.

3.0 // 5