In 2013, I listed Masquerade’s “Play Dead” demo among the best deathrock releases of that year (the 2013 list is here, by the way). The Finnish quartet are certainly a revivalist band, a group whose spot-on take on late 70s-era Siouxsie and the Banshees shows little signs of deviating from the masters’ template. Given how similar the two bands sound, I’ve heard it said that when you get tired of listening to your Killing Joke albums you can always put on 1919 and pretend you are listening to unreleased Killing Joke stuff; similarly, if you get tired of listening to “Juju”-era Siouxsie, you could put on Masquerade and pretend you are hearing unreleased tracks from those sessions. A program on Finnish national TV recently did a feature piece on Masquerade, referring to them as “Finland’s Siouxsie and the Banshees.”
No doubt some of this owes to singer Suzi Sabotage‘s appearance. She has the pipes to back up the image, though, and the result is solidly in the Voodoo Church/Your Funeral/Lost Cherrees-influenced vein of modern, revivalist gothic punk rock. Further interviews with the band’s musicians have revealed them to be proper punk music geeks — fans of Scandinavian forebears like Kuudes Tunti, Musta Paraati, and Cortex — who are solidly grounded in the history and discography of both hardcore punk like Riistetyt and Black Uniforms and postpunk from abroad.
So now comes Masquerade’s Blood Is the New Black EP, coming out on Fight Records in Europe and the increasingly great Mass Media Records in the USA, sometime between now and December (Mass Media, of course, is home to releases by fellow goth-y punks Cemetery, Lost Tribe, and Dystopian Society, and otherwise similar bands like Moral Hex and Vivid Sekt. And rumor has it an Annex LP may be in the works…).
Five tracks long, the Helsinki band’s Blood is the New Black EP delivers an impressive assortment of songs, two of which already have videos on Masquerade’s official Youtube channel. (See them below.) My favorite track is the first song on side 2, “I Will Stalk You,” which is sort of like a cross between The Damned’s “Feel the Pain” and Rubella Ballet. A great combo! As a whole, the EP echoes heavily with the twin influences of American deathrock and early 80s UK gothic rock/”positive punk” (Blood and Roses, Brigandage) with a dash of the early UK peace/anarcho-punk that has crept into the revivalist form of this genre. Masquerade dig a little deeper and throw in a touch of their own regional kindred souls, like the aforementioned bands Musta Paraati and Cortex.
Over a decade ago, Felix Von Havoc mentioned in the pages of MRR that we’ve entered the “throwback era” of music, where bands are judged in terms of, and seem to consciously want to be, a “throwback” to something much earlier, usually from the 80s. Well, we’re certainly still mostly in that era (although there are bands out there that are doing interesting and novel stuff all the time, to be sure), and Masquerade are quite decidedly and purposefully a throwback to Siouxsie and Skeletal Family. The atmospheric synths on “Cry Like Birds” are a nice touch, and “I WIll Stalk You” may be one of the most perfectly-made deathrock songs I have heard in quite some time. Masquerade have the chops; they’re good musicians, they nail every note, and frankly have made a pretty awesome gothy postpunk EP here. The last track, “Murderama,” has a more tribal type drum beat and occasionally sounds a bit like Signal Lost or Arctic Flowers! And for folks into the “new postpunk” like Iceland’s Börn or, say, the Savages, there’s a bit of that in there, too. Blood is the New Black is sure to please fans of any of the bands I’ve mentioned so far. Hell, it pleases me! I’ve listened to it multiple times now, and I like it a lot. It’s good music, and more than that, it’s purist postunk and purist deathrock (in sound) from a band who know and respect the traditions and history of the genre. I can’t think of a higher recommendation for it than that.
Masquerade have a Bandcamp page here.
Masquerade are on Facebook here.