Sound — 9
Power metal usually has a so and so reputation among the metal community. You have the true greats that are musical masters (Edguy, Wintersun, Manowar and so on) and then theres the other end of the spectrum, where the showoffs live (Dragonforce, Sonata Arctica, Galneryus). Of course, power metal in itself is a broad spectrum, the line between it and heavy metal not being that big. Masterplan are a band that keep right onto a balance between the two. They achieve this by keeping the bombast sound if power metal, but with the sensabilities of prog rock and traditional heavy metal. But todays heavy metal is considered to be 'dry' and 'commercialized' due to the softening of a few certain bands (Nudge Nudge, Disturbed and Slipknot) from the original nu-metal scene. Theres few bands that really have a sort of 'spirit' to them or a knack for original song writing. Well, Masterplan have both plus points: every song contains fresh sounding riffs and theres not a single dull melody. The general sound can be re-summarized as containing the 'feel' of power metal through atmospheric/uplifting keyboards, fast drumwork and pounding chugging riffs but with the slower, contained sound of heavy metal with a few hints of progressive music throughout. Although many can say they have similar sounds to X many bands, you'll really just have to listen to say that for yourself.
Lyrics — 8
This is the main negative point of Masterplans sound: The lyrics are pretty drab. Although they usually have a good meaning, they sound cheesy and the metaphors are pretty bad. While its not as terrible as say, DragonForce (where the only lyrics are 'flames, power, storm, stars' and 'rise'), theres a lot of emphasis on the same subject matter. This is an example from the song 'Fiddle of Time': Spinning your web away from the sun You move in the shadows like a sliding spider Changing is the road for a different future Evil times will pass you by Themes usually revolve around self-improvement, stories and legends and quite a few songs focus on World War 1 and 2 (for instance, 'Blue Europa' from this album and 'Crimson Rider' from their Aeronautics album). While not bad choices, theres little variation (although it probably could be expected from Power metal). However, despite the lyrics failing at one end, the vocalist (Jorn Lande) has one phenomenal voice. Jorn is famous for being the vocalist of 90's band TNT (and for singing their 1994 world cup theme song) and worldwide for collaborating with Russel Allen of Symphony X fame on an entire album together. He's also been dubbed 'Thee New Voice Of Rock'. On 'Time To Be King', Jorns vocals are one of the main standout points on the album: The rest of the album would be bland without him. His vocal range is massive and could be considered to have equal skill to singers like Bruce Dickinson.
Overall Impression — 9
When first hearing Masterplan (quite a while ago, infact) I don't think I had heard a more fantastic band up till that point. Their albums with Jorn have never failed to be absolutely epic. The rest of the band members themselves are virtuosos in their own right: Roland Grapow of Helloween fame (or as I call him, the master of harmonics) is the main guitarist and Jan Eckert of Iron Saviour and Running Wild is the bassist. Favourite songs on the album are 'Fiddle of Time', 'The Sun Is In Your Hands' (which has a similar riff to the opening of Metallicas 'Battery'), 'The Dark Road', 'Far From The End Of The World' and 'Kisses from You' (which seems to me like a tribute to Queen, because its a classic rock ballad). There are few bands these days that really have a level of skill and the essence of power that Masterplan have. Every album just gets better and better. What some may call cheesy, some will call uplifting. What some would call cliche, others would say sticking to a good formula. Theres little to really make you not listen to this album, perhaps the only real problems are what I call 'Attritional replay value' (basically playing a favourite song over and over enough times until you stop liking it) and the lyrics. While not groundbreaking, Masterplan is definitly one of the best power metal bands of recent years. And on another note, be sure to check out Jorns next solo album 'Dio' which is a tribute to the recently passed singer.