Review Summary: If Alternative/Emo Rock was the only genre in music, this would very possibly be a classic.
Kids in the Way has never been a genre-defining band. Their first album Safe From the Losing Fight was basically punk rock with an emo-ish tinge (read: forgettable), their second album Apparitions of Melody was a hardcore/screamo rip-off of much better bands, with that same emo tinge. However, they included one song on the re-release of Apparitions that made you almost(emphasis on the almost) forget about the generic plagiarisms they had become known for. That song was called Fiction, and along with a killer video, it completely changed my perception of the band. They actually had some potential. So when they came out with A Love Hate Masquerade, I was nervously optimistic, especially when I learned that Fiction would be on the album. Could they fulfill the potential they showed with Fiction, or would it be just a one-hit wonder?
The answer is: kind of. Fiction is still easily the best song, but the others are cut from the same cloth. In fact, the whole album is really just another KITW rip job, this time of various other alternative/emo bands. The difference this time around? It actually sounds better than most of the bands they're copying. Let's face it: most alt/emo groups are pretty generic anyway, so it's not saying much to be copying this genre. But when done right, alt/emo rock is fun to listen to, even if just as a guilty pleasure. And for the most part, these guys hit the nail on the head.
The formula in this genre is simple: catchy riffs, addictive lead guitar melody lines, soaring choruses, emotional vocals and lyrics. KITW is a perfect 5 for 5 in this department. Of course, the alternative/emo genre formula also includes such items as: the indecipherable bassist, simple drums, cliche lyrics, short song length, and the distinct feeling that you're hearing the exact same song pattern over and over in every single song. KITW is a perfect 5 for 5 in this department as well. However, with that said, they avoid the biggest pitfall of most bands in the genre: forgettability. Most alt/emo albums have 3 or 4 good songs that successfully implement the above formula, and the rest are basically filler. A Love Hate Masquerade, on the other hand, is the opposite: most of the songs sound great and perfectly execute the formula, while only 3 or 4 are typical filler material.
For example, Your Demon is the perfect album opener for this genre. No fancy instrumental intro for Kids in the Way. They simply jump right in with a heavy, powerful, insanely addictive riff, and you really can't help being caught up in it. If you're not bobbing your head or tapping your toe to this one, there's definitely something wrong with you. Better Times is your typical alt/emo fare: catchy melodic intro, palm muted verse, soaring chorus, complete with plenty of "Whoa oh's" for emphasis. Yeah it's generic, but it sounds perfect, like everything that should be there is there, and it comes together like clockwork. The Innocence changes it up a little, jumping right into the verse with some simple but nice lead guitar work, and the chorus is very possibly one of the best choruses ever created in the genre. These guys have this style down to a T, it's obvious. Letting Go has some nice lead guitar in the bridge, My Little Nightmare has an intro lick that's so catchy you could get high on it, and Far From Over continues the trend with another driving and addictive riff. Still, even with all this riffalicious material stacked up front, the best songs are yet to come. Sugar starts with another simple but excellent guitar lick that leads into the verse very well. The verse is pretty quiet for the first two lines, but then some palm muting comes in, obviously building up to something. Power chords then break in, followed by more palm muting, followed by more power chords, etc. Clearly, the song is building up to a crescendo. And then the chorus hits, a hard-hitting power chord-driven assault that perfectly fulfills the preceding build-up. The best part of the song, though are the lyrics:
"She’s a high fashion love assassin
Taking names and playing games is her passion
…She’s the Devil, in black stilettos
Don’t cross her, she’s a fully loaded debutante"
"She’s a killer made of spice and sugar
Hand grenades for promenades better suit her
…She’s the Devil, in black stilettos
Don’t raise your glass - her cocktail’s spiked with glycerin"
"It’s a love hate masquerade
And she’s got you in her sights"
Who among us hasn’t crossed paths with one of these bad girls at some point? Now you have a song to sing about her.
Fiction is the second to last song, which is the perfect place for it. I don’t know many bands who would put their best song second to last on the track listing, but it’s a cool idea. It begins with a haunting lead guitar melody that instantly grabs your attention, and the song just carries you along from there. Simple palm muting dominates the verses, which could be boring except that it just hits all the right notes and perfectly conveys the epic, haunting feel of the song. The chorus, after the relatively subdued verse, is a heavy rush of emotional energy, as if they’re letting all their feelings loose in those few seconds. It really does completely envelop you, and immerse you into the pure emotion of the song. The chorus has killer lyrics, too:
"We’re making fiction of our lives
Burning pages as we write
We read the lies between the lines
These dead letters won’t survive"
"We are not poets
We have no right to make amendments"
I really can’t stress enough just how well Kids in the Way conveys the emotion of this song, because it goes well past your ears. You actually feel it. By the end of the song, with a heavy riff pounding your ears and Dave screaming “WE’RE BURNING PAGES!” you can’t help but shiver a little at just how awesome the experience you just had was.
There are a few problems, which as I said previously are typical of this genre. We Kill At Twilight and Winter Passing are unmistakably filler, and subpar compared with the rest of the album. Letting Go has a nice chorus and some good lead guitar, but seems to drag on quite a bit more than it needs to. Also, Far From Over has a sweet intro riff, but the rest of the song fails to hold your interest, which to a lesser degree could also be said of My Little Nightmare.
However, on the whole, A Love Hate Masquerade delivers the goods. It’s tempting to write it off as just another mediocre alt/emo album, but this one is simply too good to be grouped in with the rest. The guitar riffs are heavier than most in the genre, the licks are far more addictive than most in the genre, the vocals are more passionate than most in the genre, and they have more top-shelf songs than most other albums in this genre. If you are a fan of alternative/emo rock, you are guaranteed to love this album. And even if you’re a progressive metal fan who looks upon such albums with disdain, you would do yourself a great favor by picking this up as a guilty pleasure. It’s not different, it’s not progressive, it’s not complex, but it’s pure ear candy. And even the most hardened “anti-typical rock” adherents have to indulge once in a while.
-- Your Demon
-- The Innocence
-- My Little Nightmare