Mastercastle – Wine of Heaven (Scarlet Records)Tuesday, 23rd May 2017
Changing up the guitar-hero oriented power metal formula can be a daunting task, especially when releasing five studio albums to build your following. It’s like taking a noted fastball pitcher and suddenly asking him to deliver screwballs as his main pitch – you don’t know what will happen and if the outcome will be accepted. Italian quartet Mastercastle come off of the neo-classical meets Rainbow/Accept formula that put efforts like 2010’s Last Desire and 2014’s Enfer [De La Bibliotheque Nationale] in their audience’s hearts and flip the script a little for album six Wine of Heaven. And after a few spins, these nine songs could expand their following, especially for those who desire melody and heaviness with stronger modern meets 80’s keyboard context.
Dialing back the scope of advanced musicianship allows tracks like “Shine on Me” and “Space of Variations” to sit in focused hook-mode, ping ponging back and forth between the instantaneous chord propulsions from guitarist Pier Gonella and the soothing, serene vocal range of Giorgia Gueglio. Certain tempos and tones exude that darker staccato/cyber-oriented texture (the title cut as the prime example), something that will be quite familiar to those who dig Lacuna Coil or Evergrey’s latest recordings. All has not been askew stylistically though – “Castle in the Sky” as a second half instrumental effort may start off tranquil, but towards the last two minutes conveys more of a bombastic, neoclassical veneer as Pier lands smooth arpeggio-laden leads that command horn salutes. Bright keyboards for “Drink of Me” and closer “Making Love” will assuredly convey 80’s arena rock memories – or be cut of the Battle Beast cloth – depending on where you sit in terms of your musical education. The emphasis on shout-a-long choruses will make most of this material an easy aural sell, Mastercastle deciding to expand on their power platform by cutting away any unnecessary fluff and sticking to solid verse/chorus flow, packed to the gills with headbanging musical hooks.
Let’s face it- how many bands do we need to play a million miles an hour, throw down incessant double bass, and add choirs to every chorus to make their records sound larger than life? From slide guitar nuances to theatrical-oriented ballads, Wine of Heaven should gain Mastercastle the wider appeal they desire – hopefully not sacrificing those who already came into the fold.