Masterplan – Masterplan (Anniversary Edition)
Release Date: 10/11/23
Running Time: 01:04:53
Review by Simon Black
This record achieved a whole bunch of firsts when it was originally released in 2003. There once was a time when Melodic Power Metal acts were something of a rarity. The European variant has always been dominated by Helloween in the late 20th Century, but this project was originally a side-affair for two of that band’s members Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch. In fact, so distracting was it perceived by the rest of Helloween, that it saw them both being kicked out as a consequence never to return, but this is also the point at which these kind of cross-pollinated Power acts were starting to become commonplace, and we are only two years after Tobi Sammet started his Avantasia beast rolling.
It’s also the first time many people came across the powerhouse vocals of Jørn Lande, a man whose distinctive roaring style caters to many genres, and who has subsequently lent his skills to may many projects, but to be fair he’s been there on and off for the first half of their history, and this is where he’s most fondly remembered. Rick Altzi may have been behind the stand since 2012, but since he’s only made it onto what’s currently their last original studio album “Novum Initium” in 2013 (sorry, but I’m not counting the 2017 Helloween covers effort “PumpKings”), so Lande remains for many the voice of Masterplan.
Andy Sneap is in the Producer’s chair here, and like everything he touches it has a thoroughly rich and punchy sound that allows each and every member of the band to step forwards whilst retaining a cohesive band sound. A first for him too at the time, given that Thrash and more extreme forms of Metal were where he was best known, and to be honest this guy can make any sub-genre sound absolutely belting, because first and foremost he’s all about pulling the best possible performance out of a musician… Then getting them to do it again, only better please… Rinse and repeat, until it absolutely is…
Does it still stand up after 20 years though? Absolutely. Masterplan are still held up as a premium example of the genre, and this album probably as the centrepiece of that. It’s not short (and this version has three B side extra tracks with a live DVD to accompany the physical release) but it holds the attention throughout without becoming bored or stilted. For a genre these days that seems obsessed with concept albums, this is refreshingly just all about eleven straight to the point songs from a bunch of musicians with an excellent pedigree and who, no matter what they have achieved before or since, can still hold a candle to this as a high-water mark of how things should be done. And extra points for also dragging Michael Kiske in to duet with Lande, something he does every couple of years now with Avantasia, but at this point only Kiske had contributed to that project, and it was still another five years off of becoming the touring behemoth that it is today.
Which is a shame really, because in many ways Avantasia has eclipsed Masterplan, despite them breaking a lot of ground with the approach, but never forget where you came from, and as an intro to both the genre and the band, I am delighted that it has finally been made available again.
01. Spirit Never Die
02. Enlighten Me
03. Kind Hearted Light
04. Crystal Night
07. Sail On
08. Into The Light
09. Crawling From Hell
10. Bleeding Eyes
11. When Love Comes Close
12. The Kid Rocks On
13. Through Thick & Thin
14. Black Dog
Jørn Lande – Vocals
Roland Grapow – Guitar, Bass, Keyboards Arrangement And Program
Uli Kusch – Drums, Keyboards Arrangement And Program
Michael Kiske – Vocals On Track 6
Janne Wirman – Keyboards On All Tracks
Ferdy Doernberg – Keyboards On Track 8
Jürgen Attig – Bass On Tracks 12-14
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