234 miles, 3 bands, 1 pizza.
I know that that sounds like the start to a dodgy sit-com but what I’m actually describing is my night last Saturday. What was the reason for this merry jaunt and consuming of fast food I hear you cry! Well ladies and gentlemen Lock Up Laura were launching their brand new album Masquerade at the Engine Shed in Lincoln and I’ve never missed an opportunity to party in my life so needless to say I was there like a shot.
The gig was awesome; main support act Theia absolutely smashed it and Lock Up Laura complete with shiny jacket and mic stand combo tore what was remaining of the house down. One of the main reasons for that is the fact that said new album is a certified cracker.
There are a tonne of reasons why I’m a big fan of this record but the main one is its sheer range coupled with an incredible balance. Pretty much every style of rock song which you can dream up is on there. You want a thundering hard rock track? Yeah it’s got one of those. You want a ballad? Tick. You want a live anthem. Tick again. Mid-tempo tune to sing along to? Yep, it’s got one of those too. Masquerade is one of the most compete albums that I have heard for a minute.
The intro builds the tension and anticipation with a mixture of gentle piano, soaring strings and crunching riffs. This isn’t just an intro; this is statement saying that this record is going to be an epic experience. Then just as you start to fall back into this comforting blanket of grandeur the opening strains of lead single The Jury’s Out come crashing over the horizon and hit you straight between the eyes. I really liked the track when i reviewed it a couple of weeks ago and it certainly hasn’t lost any of its impact.
Broken Man is more of the same just this time with a brilliantly strong hook and piston like drum beat which leads up to the finale which giving the track that extra kick. I wasn’t completely sold on this one when I first heard it but by listens 3 and 4 it had really grown on me. The pace then drops considerably with the arrival of Walk Away and its sweeping string section. With everything slowed right down and the guitars and drums scaled back the strong, emotive vocal from Lee McCuster really comes to the fore for the first time and undoubtedly delivers.
Title track Masquerade is another slow one but it’s a real epic. The verses are again pretty stripped back but the chorus crunches in with a beautiful ferocity which really gives the track that massive feel. It’s at moments like this that I feel that the band are at their best, and in my opinion this is the best track on the album. If you want to know why so many people including me rate this band so highly then listen to this track. Aaron Hall’s lead guitar soars higher than the Empire State, the rhythm section of Buckthorp, Giles and Mahfouz is ridiculously tight and on point and as I mentioned above the vocal is absolutely spot on.
Natalie’s Song (Named after a fan) sees the pace quicken back up once more as the badass riffs and attitude return. After a track as huge and weighty as Masquerade something like this is always needed to almost hit the reset button so the listener can go again, and the punchiness of this track will certainly get your attention. That attention is retained by the sprawling End Of Act One which starts off at a crawl before turning into a grandiose swirl a mega guitars and vocals tailor made for the end sequence of a movie where someone is about to die a noble and heroic death.
The ebb and flow continues with the powerful crunching riffs of The Break. Again the hook is out of the top drawer. The pace changes play a big part on this one and prevent it from becoming too samey and sliding into the background too much which helps the flow of the album as a whole. Open Arms is about as emotive of a rock song as you’re ever going to get. It’s kind of Shinedown- ish and was just made to be performed live. The big anthemic section at the end went down a storm on Saturday meaning this track surely will be a staple of the band’s live shows forever and a day.
As the record hits the home stretch things kick up a gear for the final time as the stonking drum beat on the opening of Save Me beats you about the head. My only criticism here is that the song is too long, it hits the wall at just over three minutes and then kind of lingers around not doing a lot. It’s a minor niggle but a niggle all the same.
Penultimate song Holding On is another one for the anthem lovers among you. It’s a great track no doubt, and will for my money be a single one day but this one really comes to life when it’s played live. This was the standout moment on Saturday and I guarantee it will be a standout moment for many gigs to come, the audience just came alive it was a great moment.
The curtain is brought down on the masquerade by ballad Alone With You. I’m not generally a big fan of rock albums finishing on ballads but I think here the track bookends the album really well and brings things to a nice conclusion.
As I mentioned at the off Masquerade has pretty much everything you want in a rock album. There is something for everyone on this record, although I think the band really are at their best on those big, grand tracks like the title track. The album ebbs and flows like the tide and never gets stale as the switches in style and pace keep everything moving along. Apart from Save Me being too long there really isn’t anything I dislike about this record.
Masquerade is a beauty.