MASTERPLAN – Novum Initium

Masterplan - Novum InitiumWhen former Helloween members, guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch, formed Masterplan together with Norwegian big voice Jorn Lande back in 2001, many a rock fan thought that they just might be the next big thing in metal. Their two first albums, the self titled debut from 2003 and its follow up Aeronautics (2005), really should have put them in that position. The albums are full of melodic heavy metal that has influences from both power metal and straight forward hard rock, the latter influences brought into the band mostly by Jorn, whose voice is mix between Ronnie James Dio and David Coverdale. But unfortunately the big break never came and both Jorn and Kusch left the band. In Kusch’s case, that was a shattering blow for the band as it turned out that many of the catchy melodies came from him. The band tried to continue with new singer Mike DiMeo (ex Riot) and drummer Mike Terrana (Yngwie Malmsteen, Axel Rudi Pell, Hardline, Beau Nasty), but the album, MK III (2007) lacked many of the ingredients that its predecessors had. It wasn’t a bad album by any means, it just wasn’t good enough and the band sank into quietness and many thought that we had seen the last of Masterplan. But somewhere around 2009 we got the news that the band was back in the studio, with the same lineup as on the last album, except that Jorn Lande had agreed to reunite with the guys – and of course, all of a sudden, there were expectations from both fans and critics. Too bad that their 2010 album Time To Be King, wasn’t even close to the two first albums, even though it was slightly better than its predecessor and it didn’t take long for Jorn to once again hand in his resignation and this time, Masterplan actually were over for good.

Or so everybody thought. That’s why it was somewhat surprising when Grapow announced that Masterplan was back with a completely new line-up, leaving Grapow to be sole original member of the band, although keyboard player Axel Mackenrott has been with the band since 2003. New drummer was Martin Marthus Skaroupka (ex Mantas, Cradle Of Filth), Finnish bass player Jari Kainulainen (ex Stratovarius) and Swedish singer Rick Atzi who has been singing with Grapow’s fellow countrymen At Vance and Herman Frank (Accept). So how does this second Jorn-less line-up sound then? Well, first I must say that I was more curious than aroused about this album. Their last two albums had made sure that I didn’t actually have any expectations on this album at all. Openers, the instrumental “Per Aspera Ad Astra” and “The Game” gives the album a brilliant start – metal with killer melodies and a new spark, “Keep Your Dream Alive” is melodic and catchy, but still heavy – great stuff, “Black Night Of Magic” is awesome, classic Masterplan, “Through Your Eyes” is a really good metal ballad and the title track is long, dark, heavy and an epic sounding track, but it kind of leaves me a bit cold, still good, but it might need a couple of more spins. On all mentioned songs, Uli Kusch’s catchy metal melodies aren’t missed as much as I suspected and if all tracks had been as good as these, Masterplan would have had a winner on their hands. Unfortunately, there are too many forgettable tracks here. Not bad songs, but songs that are good while listening, but when the album is done, you don’t remember anything. Which is sad, because the album started out so well. But if you get your hands on the digipack version you get two bonus tracks. “1492” is a real killer and better than most of the songs on the original album and the same goes for “Fear The Silence”. I can’t get it through my skull why they chose to put these two as bonus tracks, when they could have a winner, had they been included on the original edition.

The new album is lots better than MK III and Time To Be King, but once again their two first albums seems impossible to shake. New singer, Atzi, is a great singer, but he is no Jorn. He has a tendency to sound a lot like many other lead singers in metal and power metal and one thing that Jorn provided with was variation – when things got too much power metal, Jorn’s voice took the edge off that and made things more interesting. I must stress, though, that I like Atzi’s voice a lot. I chose to look at this album as a new start for the band and therefore I see no reason for them not to evolve into a great act in the future if they can keep this line-up intact. To sum it up – a good album – no more, no less.

Jon Wilmenius (6/10)


01. Per Aspera Ad Astra
02. The Game
03. Keep Your Dream Alive
04. Black Night Of Magic
05. Betrayal
06. No Escape
07. Pray On My Soul
08. Earth Is Going Down
09. Return From Avalon
10. Through Your Eyes
11. Novum Initium
12. 1492 (digipack bonus track)
13. Fear The Silence (digipack bonus track)

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