Masterplan - MK II 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-2-07





Tracklist:

1. Phoenix rising
2. Warrior's cry
3. Lost and gone
4. Keeps me burning
5. Take me over
6. I'm gonna win
7. Watching the world
8. Call the gypsy
9. Trust in you
10. Masterplan
11. Enemy
12. Heart of darkness


Masterplan returns with their 3rd CD 'MK II', amid a sea of changes. Vocalist Jorn Lande and drummer Uli Kusch both left the band recently. Unfettered and unwilling to lose their "supergroup" status, Masterplan went and recruited a couple of big name replacements, namely Mike DiMeo (former Riot vocalist) and Mike Terrana (former Rage drummer). DiMeo is a pretty solid choice. He has a similar style to former singer Jorn Lande, with a smooth delivery in the lower registers and gets more raspy in the higher ones. He also sings with a lot of feeling like Lande, albeit with a more bluesy approach. Personally, while I feel that DiMeo is very good, Lande is a one of a kind vocalist. So, while DiMeo sounds great here, I can't help but have a tiny part of me miss Jorn's vocals. Terrana is a more than competent drummer, but Uli Kusch was a major songwriter for Masterplan, so arguably this is an even bigger void for the band to fill.

So how did they do? Well, all changes aside, this still sounds a lot like Masterplan. I really doubt that the band will ever be able to match the magic of their debut though. Clearly the band's sound was fresh and the creative juices were really flowing when they created that CD. I also enjoyed their 2nd CD 'Aeronautics' quite a bit, though I know many others were put off by it being a little less aggressive. On this 3rd CD, I would put the sound somewhere in between the first 2 with some more aggression than 'Aeronautics', but not quite at the level of the debut. The songs are by and large quite good and DiMeo's voice fits right in with their sound without being too abrupt a departure from Lande.

The CD opens with the appropriately titled "Phoenix rising". It's a pretty standard power metal instrumental opener. Nothing really to write home about. "Warriors cry" is your prototypical speedy power metal opener. This is probably my favorite track on the CD. Right away the level of polish and professionalism is apparent from the production to the caliber of songwriting. The CD continues on with the melodic power metal stylings you would expect from Masterplan. The tempos vary between songs keeping things interesting. There is the obligatory power ballad "I'm gonna win" (which is surprisingly good) and the CD closes with the riffy epic "Heart of darkness". DiMeo's presence does result in some subtle changes to the vocal melodies, and at times I find myself thinking that some of the choruses sound more like Riot than Masterplan, but that's only natural.

So how does this CD compare to the others? Well, it's probably my least favorite, but I certainly think it is a cut above most releases coming out nowadays. I can't help but feel a little bit of the songwriting magic is gone with Kusch's departure. DiMeo was an inspired choice as a replacement, but I just prefer Lande's voice, so I can't help but feel it's a tiny bit of a downgrade. I still enjoy the CD a lot and think it's a no brainer for fans of the first 2 CDs, but if you found 'Aeronautics' to be a bit of a let down, you may want to listen before you buy.



JOHN




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