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Review: Masterplan - MK II

Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2007
Duration: 52:32
Tracks: 12
Genre: Power Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: February 21, 2009
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Readers Rating

Rated 4.05/5 (80.91%) (22 Votes)

I've never heard the other Masterplan albums, the ones with Jorn, and I don't really care to. I do, however, know that this album, featuring the talents of one-time Riot vocalist Mike DiMeo, is of a higher caliber for melodic Power Metal, and one of the better ones of 2007. I mean, in a year where so many Power Metal bands fell from their thrones, Masterplan served up one hell of a curve ball.

The sound on MK-II is mostly based on the guitars, which charge forward in a solid, riff-based manner not unlike what Nocturnal Rites was doing a few years back with Shadowland. The drums, done by Mike Terrana in between the five thousand other bands he is/was a member of, are also very prominent, adding a stoic, uncompromising backdrop for the guitars to flourish upon, and DiMeo's vocals are stellar; just this powerful, clear howl of pure metal brilliance. The man has a lot of talent, and it's a shame that he recently left this band, because they had a lot of chemistry together. The songwriting here is flexible and unpredictable, with a lot of variety, going from the DragonForce-esque "Warriors Cry," with its careening speedy tempo and high-flying chorus, to the radio-friendly "Lost and Gone," the heavy and grinding "Heart of Darkness," to the catchy anthems like "Enemy" and "Keeps Me Burning." The guitars are big and fat and heavy, the riffs are ready to stomp your ass into the ground and the lead-work is melodious and saccharine in its lush Helloween-ish manner - clearly Roland Grapow has lost none of the magic that made The Dark Ride such a pleasure.

This album is also a bit of a grower, taking multiple listens to sink in, with the rattling, wide-open production job certainly being a factor here. Many of the songs are not initially spectacular, although they do have their hooks, relying on your willpower to stick with this album and allow its flowers to blossom. Where you'll initially be captivated by the more accessible tracks like "Warrior's Cry" and "Keeps Me Burning," you will also find joy in more introspective songs like "Watching the World" and "Heart of Darkness," with their slightly more obtuse and complex arrangements. Not to say that it doesn't also have its more commercial numbers - "I'm Gonna Win" and "Lost and Gone" are as fine as pop-metal constructions can get on this side of Edguy, with smooth, sticky hooks for your immediate consumption. And I've already mentioned the more anthemic songs here, the duo of "Enemy" and "Keeps Me Burning," which are two of the best songs on here. This band writes hooks so well that it ought to be a fucking crime, because it's impossible to decide the best song on here...

...Until we hit the self-titled track "Masterplan," which is definitely the best on MK-II! "Masterplan" is a heavy, loud n' proud romp through Painkiller country, although the band does it up with some of that old school Nocturnal Rites melody I mentioned before to create a real beast of a song. DiMeo sings his lungs out and gives the performance of a goddamn lifetime (at times resembling Hansi Kursch and at others Johnny Lindqvist), and the guitars soar and dive and weave in all manner of Power Metal acrobatic. This song alone is worth the price of admission, but the rest of the songs are good, too, so I have to say that this is a great album for any Power Metal aficionado worth his salt. You don't want to miss this.

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