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March 2003
Released: 2003, AFM Records
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: EvilG

Helloween freaks should already know about Masterplan. To quickly re-cap - Helloween alumni Roland Grapow (guitars) and Uli Kusch (drums) are the architects of the band. Together they recruited vocalist Jorn Lande (Jorn, ex-Ark, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), bassist Jan S. Eckert (ex-Iron Savior) and drummer Axel Mackenrott (ex-Punch TV).

Of passing interest is the fact that the band first asked ex-metal vocalist Michael Kiske (Helloween vocalist 1987-1993) to be Masterplan’s vocalist. However, he declined in favor of his alterna-radio-rock band Supared. Kiske does make an appearance on one song only.

For those expecting this album to be another typical power metal album about warriors, kings, battles, and dragons with music sounding like second-rate Helloween, you are dead wrong! While there are some Heloween-ish moments, the overpowering feeling I get from this is more of a mix of melodic/progressive metal mixed with a little classic hard rock. The album cover is also not typical of anything a power metal band typically offers. The cover depicts destruction caused by fire, tidal wave, tornado, and earthquake.

For those looking for a Helloween reference you’ll find it on the sixth track on the album - “Heroes”. This is the track that features a duet with Jorn Lande and Michael Kiske. Musically this song has some elements of “I Want Out” only it sounds updated. Kiske sings strongly and clearly on his sections, but he doesn’t totally wail or climb up there as high as I would of liked. In any case, his voice is still golden and metal fans can at least hear him here or with Avantasia. Too bad his heart is not into metal any longer because he could really do a stellar job if only he wanted too. The only other song that contains something (albeit very little) that made me think of Helloween was “Spirit Never Die”. This is also one of the more progressive metal sounding tracks on the album. This one starts out like it could be Helloween but then gets a little more progressive reminding me of Sweden’s Evergrey.

For those more into the lighter side of melodic metal and hard rock this album has it’s share of that too. “Enlighten Me” has a chorus that borders on radio friendly pop rock. Don’t fear, the rest of the song is pretty much metal, although it’s moreso hard rock. Also fitting into the lighter side of things is “Kind Hearted Heart”. This sounds like it could have been one of the mid-tempo tracks from Avantasia - not all that heavy of a track that I’m sure wouldn’t scare off non-metal fans with its catchy hooks. “Soulburn” begins with some piano and gets a little heavier as it picks up to mid-tempo speed with some nice symphonic sections mixed into the chorus where I also hear some David Coverdale influence on the vocals. The other two tracks that I would put into the section of the more melodic songs on the album are the two ballads. “Into The Light” is the first ballad…and a bad one in my opinion. I’d rather listen to “I Remember You” by Skid Row 10000 times than hear this one again. It’s just not my type of ballad I guess. The solo in this one is pretty cool, the vocals are done well, but as a song I just didn’t feel it. The album closes on a soft note with the ballad “When Loves Comes Close”. This is the better ballad-like track on the album harkening back to some of the 80’s styled power ballads brought up to date with symphonic string sections.

For my tastes I preferred the more aggressive tracks on the album. Falling into this division is “Crystal Night” which starts with a much more metal sounding riff than the songs preceding it. Vocalist Jorn Lande belts out the vocals with a vengeance on this one. After hearing this track, I’m glad the band selected Jorn Lande as vocalist. His vocal style is aggressive with lots of grit and dirt to his voice but it’s still very melodic. If you like classic metal singers like Robert Plant, Ronnie James Dio, etc. than you’ll love his vocal style. Another of the album’s more metalized numbers is the nicely titled “Crawling From Hell”. With a title like “Crawling From Hell” I was expecting something a little more “brutal” - at least relatively speaking for Masterplan. The song starts with some killer riffing and the tempo stays up there so relatively speaking the song is quite heavy for Masterplan and (surprise, surprise) is one of my favorite tracks on the CD! The third track that fits in under the more aggressive section of the album is “Bleeding Eyes” and is another of my favs on here. Despite the morbid title, “Bleeding Eyes” is not a Cannibal Corpse styled song! This one has a melody line that has a harmonic minor feel to it, as do the vocal melodies. Near the end there is also a sitar. Some of the vocals on this on are quite aggressive as is the ripping guitar solo with some weird “whammy” type effects near the end. The only other track that I’d call aggressive is unfortunately a bit of a sleeper to me. That is “Sail On” which despite being a faster track made my attention sail away.

I know with more listens of this CD it will only grow on me more. Again I have to stress this - do not pick up this CD expecting to hear high-octane Helloween or even speedy power metal! This is melodic metal meets hard rock with some progressive touches. The songs are not all about speed, double kicks, soaring vocals, and shredding guitars. The album has a little bit of the Helloween reference to pique the interest of Helloween fans. It has lots of melody and hard rock songs and for those who like the more aggressive side of melodic metal there are a few tracks that will interest you but you’d better have an open mind and not only be into this element of Masterplan or you’ll be disappointed. This is a mature sounding album from musicians who have been around long enough to know how to craft an album of strong songs encompassing many facets of hard rock and heavy metal.
Track Listing

01. Spirit Never Die
02. Enlighten Me
03. Kindhearted Light
04. Crystal Night
05. Soulburn
06. Heroes
07. Sail On
08. Into The Light
09. Crawling From Hell
10. Bleeding Eyes
11. When Love Comes Close


Roland Grapow – Guitars
Uli Kusch – Drums
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Jan S. Eckert – Bass
Axel Mackenrott - Keys

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