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Masterstroke - Sleep 3.5/5

Reviewed: 1-25-08


1. Transition
2. Killing creatures
3. Turn away
4. Under our command
5. Another failure
6. The circle
7. Being me
8. Sleep
9. Silent
10. Final journey

Masterstroke's debut 'Apocalypse' seemed to pass through the realm of metal unnoticed, as I saw very few reviews and almost nothing on popular forums. Their 2nd CD 'Sleep' will maybe turn more heads though, as this band from Finland plays melodic heavy/power metal suited to the tastes of many fans. Musically, they sit somewhere between the power metal style of Dreamtale, Thunderstone and Axenstar, and the melodic/heavy metal style of Voice, Timeless and maybe Cloudscape. Because of this, Winterborn is probably the best direct comparison.

The vocals are great but interesting, as Niko Rauhala (who also plays guitar) sings with both a clear and a slightly rough voice. When he's smooth and clear, he reminds me of Val Shieldon from Oracle Sun (and the Sigma debut), but his voice is fairly rough throughout much of the CD and he doesn't sound at all like Val at these times. His rough moments aren't even close to the extreme however, and in fact, he fits as a power metal vocalist quite well and overall, fans of bands like Symphony X and Masterplan will feel right at home here. Markus Kekoni is the other guitarist, Marko Kolehmainen is on bass, Jussi Kulomaa handles the keyboards, and drummer Janne Juutinen rounds off the line-up.

While 'Apocalypse' (their debut) has some excellent songs, there are some average songs as well, and even though it's a very good CD, 'Sleep' is more consistent. Every song is at least good, and some are excellent, namely track 4 "Under our command", track 9 "Silent", track 10 "Final journey" (the most memorable) and especially track 5 "Another failure" (the catchiest). The band packs a lot of crunch too, and the keyboard parts are left to a minimum. Yeah, this CD contains some strong guitar work, but although it's consistent (as far as quality), the band still has room for improvement in the songwriting department. Basically, there needs to be less of the good songs and more of the excellent songs.

So we end up with a slightly better CD when compared to the debut, but really, both are recommended to fans of this style and the mentioned bands. They both have highlights and if 'Apocalypse' truly did pass by you unnoticed, make sure and check it out now, along with 'Sleep'.




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