MasterPlan, the brainchild of guitarist Roland Grapow (formerly of Helloween) have returned with their fifth studio album, and first to feature new vocalist Rick Altzi (At Vance) and new bass player Jari Kainulainen (ex-Evergrey). Altzi has the formidable task of taking over the vocal chores from original lead singer Jorn Lande, who returned to the fold briefly for 2010’s Time To Be King. For those who are wondering Iif Altzi is up for the task of filling Lande’s considerable shoes, I can assure you that not only is he up for the task, he exceeds all my expectations.
After several spins of the album, I can let all MasterPlan fans not to worry, the band sounds as energized and enthusiastic as ever. The album begins with the brief majestic symphonic instrumental metal intro of Per Aspera Ad Astra, the band launch into the fast and furious power metal attack of The Game. Altzi’s vocals have a melodic rasp with an AOR sensibility that fits the song to perfection. The chorus is infectious with soaring vocal melodies while the verses have some heavy riffing courtesy of Mr. Grapow. The first single is the keyboard-tinged metal of Keep Your Dream Alive. Altzi’s melodic rasp fit this mid tempo song perfectly and Grapow heavy chugging rhythm keeps the song from venturing too far into AOR territory. Black Night of Magic has a great opening scream from Altzi, who carries the hard driving song with a glorious vocal melody. Betrayal is another mid tempo heavy number with great vocals and a heavy rhythm with some middle-eastern influenced keys and a killer guitar solo from Grapow and fine double bass drumming attack from Martin Scaroupka. No Escape is a multi-layered song that starts heavy and flows into a slow haunting verse and back to a heavy melodic cinematic chorus. Each individual instrument sounds perfect with the pristine mix and production. There is a slow build at the beginning of Prey For My Soul but when the vocals begin the song kicks into gear with an anthemic soaring chorus. Earth is Going Down has a blues meets metal feel with Altzi’s vocals and the rhythmic guitar assault. The chugging symphonic metal majesty of Return From Avalon has a soaring and catchy chorus that will stick in your head for days. Things slow down on Through Your Eyes, but this is no power ballad. Altzi’s voice truly shines on this track showing power and emotion and Grapow’s solo is effective and fits the song perfectly. The album’s final song is the title track and the longest on the album clocking in at a little over ten minutes and without a doubt my favorite track on the album. Altzi’s vocals take on a sinister evil tone during the first verse and he shows his range as he goes from growly rasps to soaring highs and mid-range melodic brilliance. At times Altzi’s voice reminds me of a young David Coverdale when he reaches for the stratosphere with his upper register. Grapow pulls out all the stops here on his guitar solo. The song ends with an amazing metallic crescendo of melody and majesty. With Novum Initium, MasterPlan shows that they have returned with an invigorated line up and one of the best power metal releases of 2013.
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