Reviewed: February 2005
Released: 2005, AFM Records/Sound Pollution
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall
Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch from Helloween formed Masterplan together with Jan, Axel and the monster singer Jörn Lande and released their selftitled album in \’03 This was an album that turned the metal world upsidedown. Both fans and media was euphoric when they heard the debut and an extensive tour throughout Europe and the rest of the world with the Swedish act Hammerfall (supporting act in Europe) followed during \’03. The album reached top positions on different charts and they also received the European Border Breakers Award for the best selling German debut the same year in Europe. 2004 was quiet for the band, the only sign of activity was Jorn’s solo album at the beginning of \’04. The other guys have been busy writing new material to this album.
During the winter \’03 Roland wrote new material and then in early \’04 he travelled to Los Angeles to visit Roy Z. Roy helped Roland out with some of the material. In March \’04, Roland and Uli then travelled to Norway to visit Jörn in Fredrikstad in order to work on the new album. After that the guys took a break before they went into the studio to record AERONAUTICS.
Again, they have chosen to work with the producer Andy Sneap. Andy produced half of the album and Roland the other. They have also mixed and mastered the album at the same place as last time, Finnvox Studio in Helsinki Finland. The duo that made the mixing and mastering are, as the last time, Miko Karmila and Mikka Jussila. The production sounds as it should, typical for power metal. They have arranged nice sounding string passages but even though the production partly sounds nice and rich they haven’t left enough space for Jörns voice. Jörn can do a lot better than this you only have to listen to his solo album to hear a remarkable difference with the vocals. The one who has the biggest part in this is Roland and his guitar.
As a preview of what the album was going to sound like they released and EP “BACK FOR MY LIFE” at the end of last year with six tracks, four of them are not featured on this album. I think that the fans and the metal press had really high expectations for this album and the band surely felt pressure to deliver another high quality album.
On my promo copy I have ten songs and all of the members have contributed material. Jan and Axel have written three tracks, Roland, Uli and Jörn have written the rest. This band is a power metal super group in any way you look at it, just look at what they have done before Masterplan, Roland and Uli from Helloween (Roland have a solo career as well and Uli was a member of Sinner), Jan from Iron Savior and Jörn from Vagabond, The Snakes, Millenium, Nostradamus and ARK etc, besides that he also have his own solo career where he recently released his third album “OUT TO EVERY NATION”.
“CRIMSON RIDER”, “WOUNDS”, “INTO THE ARENA”, “DARK FROM THE DYING”, “FALLING SPARROW”: In the first track we have some fast heavy power metal with Roland at the top of the mix, Jörn lies beneath him and he’s not using his capacity to the fullest at all. The second track has a distinct feeling of Helloween with the same music structure. The third one is a typical power metal tune with diverse tempo changes and once again is Jörn in his middle register. The fourth song is all about melodic power metal with a lot of sharp guitar tricks by Roland. And finally the fifth track is a heavy guitar based power metal thing and of course has Roland taking the biggest part of the mix. This track shows Jörn exactly how he should be singing all of the time, he takes on the high notes and makes it all sound brilliant.
“BLACK IN THE BURN” is the longest track of the album with 10 minutes playing time. It starts off with only Jörn and a piano before the song kicks off. There’s quite a lot of tempo changes and that makes the song feel a bit progressive. Uli hammers on with double bass pedals and keyboards are at the top of the mix and also this track feels a lot like it could be a Helloween track. For the second time shows Jörn that he is an amazing singer and I wonder why can’t he sound exactly like this one the whole album?
“BACK FOR MY LIFE”, “I’M NOT AFRAID”, “AFTER THIS WAR”:The first one is the first single of the album and it’s also the first up tempo ballad. It contains strings and the tempo is real slow. Jörn sings with an incredible feeling and he takes the song to another height, but it’s the wrong choice as a first single. I think it’s going to be hard to make this track be played on the radio and to make it stand out in the crowd. Nothing much really happens in the song and it’s quite boring to be frank. The second song has a really epic intro but the tempo drops to ballad speed before the first verse before Roland saves the track with his brilliant guitar play. Then comes another up tempo ballad that borders close to become a pure ballad. The only thing that saves this song from being totally boring is Jörns voice. “HEADBANGERS BALLROOM” Here it’s straight melodic hardrock with, of course, Roland at the top of the mix, the lyrics sounds only pathetic just listen yourself.
I’ve had this album over the holidays and I have listened to it a lot of times but I’m still not really sure what to think of it. As usual when it comes to AFM they have the really annoying habit of cutting down the songs with about 20 to 30 seconds so you can’t hear how the song ends. They do that with all the songs except for two, in this case it’s “CRIMSON RIDER” and “BACK FOR MY LIFE”. Total playing time is 54.07 minutes. It’s really hard to get a full picture of the songs because of that. But I realize I have to think something about this album and this is my fair description of it. I think that the music (especially the guitars) lie way to high compared to Jörn, he doesn’t get enough space to show his really wide vocal abilities. The quality of the material is uneven too, we have everything from musical similarities with Helloween (maybe it’s time for Roland and Uli to do something that doesn’t sound like Helloween) to power metal to both up tempo and pure ballads. All different angles of the music create a diversity in the material that doesn’t feel right in this case. The material gives a shattered impression compared to the debut…but on the other hand Masterplan is packed with extremely competent musicians. Even though the material is shattered, there are a few songs that stand out like “CRIMSON RIDER”, “WOUNDS”, “INTO THE ARENA”, “FALLING SPARROW” and “BLACK IN THE BURN”. If Jörn was given the chance to show us his amazing voice, the album would have gotten a higher rating. Unfortunatly they have mixed down Jörn and instead given Roland the chance to dazzle.
The debut was a modern classic, but I really doubt that AERONAUTICS will gonna achieve that. I’d think that the fans are gonna be divided into two camps regarding this album. One side will love it, and the other side is gonna be a bit disappointed…I’m sorry to say that I’m a disappointed fan.
A limited first edition in digibook format including a bonus track, video clip of the single “BACK FOR MY LIFE”, additional booklet pages/photos and multimedia extras are gonna be available during a limited time when the album is released.
A headliner tour is scheduled later this year as well as festival shows during this summer.
Labels: www.afm-records.de AND www.soundpollution.se
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