4.5 out of 5 Stars!
From Sweden, Masquerade appeared on the scene in the early ’90s, released two albums, then disappeared, only to resurface again with two additional albums just after the turn of the century. Surface of Pain, the quartet’s second release, is a woefully underrated collection of sizzling Hard Rock/Heavy Metal.
On hard-hitting tracks such as “Wasteland,” “Say Your Prayer,” “America,” “Feels Good,” “Judas Kiss,” and “Suffering,” the guitar tones and riffs (provided by a guy who goes professionally by the name of Thomas G:son—real surname, Gustafsson) are some of the most brutal and engaging I’ve ever heard, and backed by the merest hint of keyboards to round out the band’s already full and rich sound. On the other hand, “God of Man” and “Free My Mind” drop things back tempo-wise, with G:son adding acoustic guitar to the backdrop for Masquerade to deliver a grand and crushing ballad in the former instance, and a mellow and melodic tune in the latter piece, which also closes out the album on a dreamy, wonderfully atmospheric note.
Moreover, the band’s singer, Tony Yoanson, has a forceful and passionate voice occasionally similar to Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, and the strength of his melody lines, with full and punchy background harmonies, along with the pounding rhythms (thanks to bassist Henrik Lundberg and drummer Marco Tapani), provide for some memorable, head-bangin’ tunes.
Therefore, Masquerade was an obscure band shamefully ignored by the masses, with Surface of Pain shockingly rated with dismal scores on several music-related websites. I almost have to wonder if there are two versions of this album floating out there in the universe—the version I’ve owned and enjoyed for more than two decades, and another version that keeps getting lambasted by other reviewers (often with surprisingly vitriolic language). It’s almost as if there is a personal grudge being held against this particular band and this specific collection of tracks. Well, whatever the reason for the seemingly unfair hatred, I felt Masquerade (and Surface of Pain) truly deserved much more respect.