Lizzy Borden

Master of Disguise

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Curiously, just as it had happened with their chief inspiration, Alice Cooper, a decade earlier, by the time they released final album, Master of Disguise, in 1989, Lizzy Borden (the band) had been dismantled and overwhelmed by Lizzy Borden the persona and singer, with only drummer Joey Scott Harges surviving from the original lineup, and that's because he was Lizzy's brother! Musically, too, the subsequent next step was eerily analogous, since, much like Alice's triumphant solo debutant ball, Welcome to My Nightmare, Lizzy Borden's next dance, Master of Disguise, was a highly stylized concept album built on surprisingly solid compositional ground, and did much to eradicate thoughts of recent blunders (in Alice's case it had been the disastrous Muscle of Love; in Lizzy's, the contrived and derivative pop-metal missteps of Visual Lies). In fact, Master of Disguise was arguably the apex of Lizzy Borden's recording career -- band or man -- unless you favor the raw, simpler charms of early efforts Love You to Pieces and Menace to Society. Inspired by the classic Phantom of the Opera fable, the album came complete with soundtrack-like sonic effects, orchestral arrangements, and highly theatrical performances, which greatly enriched the actual songs within its core. These were themselves surprisingly eclectic, and ranged from sweeping pomp rock epics like the title suite and "Waiting in the Wings," to the tough heavy metal of "Love Is a Crime" and "Roll Over and Play Dead," plus a few, surprisingly moving ballads such as the piano enhanced "Never Too Young," and the beguilingly bleak "One False Move." Not unlike Savatage's similarly pretentious but entertaining Streets: A Rock Opera opus a couple of years later, Master of Disguise was the sort of rock opera that, on paper, shouldn't have worked, but somehow did -- although its ultimate commercial failure might suggest it did, in fact, fail. In any event, within the scope of Lizzy Borden's career, the record was a more than worthy, and pleasantly unexpected, last bow before the cruel curtains of public awareness closed forever on the would-be king of '80s shock rock. Alas, Marilyn Manson would fare far better in the next decade.

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