Masterplan – Novum Initium (AFM Records)

Sunday, 23rd June 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Jorn Lande is out, again, and with him goes the unfulfilled promise of a power metal supergroup that has yet to topple the band it was created to take out: Helloween. In light of the undeniable quality found on Masterplan’s 2003 self-titled debut and the massively underrated MK II album from 2007, the Roland Grapow (ex-Helloween)-led ensemble remains an outlier in rock/power metal circles. Perhaps their style of metal is too FM-like, easy-listening to a fault, and possibly a little staid for thirsty ears. Five albums in with Novum Initium and the fact remains, Masterplan aren’t changing…you must change with them.

New singer Rick Altzi (At Vance) is more of a template-fitter than a song shaper. Because of the manner in which Grapow composes his songs, the vocals are often left to find a place to sit, and stay there. Yet it’s not like there’s nothing to get excited about, for the lead role of “The Game” is a winner, as is “Pray On My Soul,” which serves as Altzi’s real coming out moment. He doesn’t quite have the personality of Jorn (who will forever be the bastard child of Coverdale and Dio), but will provide more stability than MK II throat Mike Dimeo, who was gone in a heartbeat.

Across Novum Initium, the relatively syrupy nature of “Keep Your Dream Alive” and up-tempo “No Escape” stay rightly in the mold of the band’s previous works. Altzi comes through in some of the chorus selections, but because his voice doesn’t have the same flexibility as Jorn’s, a certain degree of sameness starts to wear. And that’s the conundrum Masterplan and in particular Grapow, find themselves in – they haven’t made the marked progress many expected them to, with only their now proven formula to hold up songs that in comparison to Helloween’s recent firebrand Straight Out Of Hell, don’t match up as well as they should.

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