Album of the Week 25-2015: Masterplan – Masterplan


When drummer Uli Kusch and guitarist Roland Grapow were simultaneously fired from Helloween, they wasted no time and started Masterplan. Since their shared tenure in Helloween is my favorite period in the German Power Metal giants’ history, I was eagerly awaiting this debut release at the time. It wasn’t quite as Helloween-like as I expected, but the blend of progressive Hard Rock and Power Metal that is on their self-titled album is nothing less than impressive. A rare instance where the songs lead the album despite the involvement of a number of high-profile musicians.

My first impression upon hearing debut single ‘Enlighten Me’ – and opening track ‘Spirit Never Die’ – was that the song structures sounded a bit messy, but eventually, it starts to make sense and what’s left is respect for the fact that the band has managed to combine so many elements into relatively streamlined songs. Especially because they still leave a lot of room for the powerful vocals of Jørn Lande, who was pretty much the rising star of the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal scene at the time. Kusch, Grapow and Lande somehow managed to combine memorability, versatility and brief displays of virtuosity in an irresistible cocktail.

Despite the presence of something like a common sound – heavy, ultra-melodic and anthemic – the band swings back and forth between those extremes quite effortlessly. ‘Enlighten Me’, ‘King Hearted Light’ and ‘Sail On’ are somewhat poppy Hard Rock songs, there are ballads in the shape of the Zepplin-esque ‘Into The Light’ and the ridiculously Whitesnake-like, but nonetheless fantastic ‘When Love Comes Close’. ‘Crawling From Hell’ shows a heavier side of the band, while the dramatic and bombastic ‘Soulburn’ is as progressive as it gets here. The catchy Power Metal of ‘Heroes’ is most Helloween-like, which seems appropriate, given Michael Kiske’s cameo.

Sometimes, the band gets it just a little more right than the rest of this immensely enjoyable record. ‘Crystal Night’ is a winner with its heavy, stomping midtempo riff, anti-racism lyrics and downright beautiful chorus. ‘Bleeding Eyes’ is another one that kicks down the tempo a little, which fits the atmosphere of Eastern mysticism perfectly. The riffs of the song are incredibly heavy, Lande’s vocal performance is the best on the entire album and Grapow’s noisy guitar solo is easily the craziest shit I’ve ever heard him do. And ‘Spirit Never Die’ is simply the perfect moodsetter here because of its perfect build-up and upbeat message.

It’s too bad that Masterplan never quite reached the heights of their amazing debut album again. The lack of stability in the line-up may be a factor in this, but it’s only natural that a band doesn’t hit this much of a peak in terms of songwriting too often in its career. It’s not often that a record completely transcends the division between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, but this is one of those records and it should have equal appeal to fans of both genres. Unless you don’t like a well-written and ditto performed song, of course.

Recommended tracks: ‘Bleeding Eyes’, ‘Crystal Night’, ‘Soulburn’

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  1. Great review – just bought the album after playing it to death on YouTube – it’s a stunner. My favourite track is Bleeding Eyes by a long way and I just love your comment “and Grapow’s noisy guitar solo is easily the craziest shit I’ve ever heard him do” – comment of the week for me! 🙂
    Carol.

    • Hello Carol,
      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Thanks also for the compliments, of course! ‘Bleeding Eyes’ is my favorite as well. I love it when songs are this huge. Subtlety ain’t for me haha!
      Have a wonderful day and please come back for more reviews.

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