The Grandmaster – Black Sun (Frontiers Music)Friday, 5th January 2024
Another international assembly of musicians with decades of experience under their belts, The Grandmaster returns for their sophomore outing in Black Sun. Guitarist Jens Ludwig is best known for his work in Edguy, while bassist/keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio has a resume a mile long in the melodic metal/ hard rock field – the lineup rounded out by Danish vocalist Per Johansson, Chalice of Sin drummer Mirkko DeMaio and second keyboardist Brett Jones. Listeners will enjoy a hefty dose of powerful, melodic metal the European way, a generous helping of bluesy twists as well as Teutonic flavor penetrating these eleven cuts.
An energetic, galloping nature to specific chord progressions, rhythms, and transitions beyond seasoned, tasteful lead breaks keep Jens’ axe play top of mind – the sense of tension plus building momentum takes material like “Watching the End” and slightly more commercial leaning “Soul Sacrifice” to bigger heights. Layers of orchestration, piano, and keyboard parts push the ballad “Fly, Icarus Fly” into theatrical landscapes, Peer Johnasson using every ounce of his gritty pipes to the max, similar in some respects to the attitude of Udo Dirkschneider next to the metal / hard rock registers of Jorn Lande and Rob Halford. Not content to rest on past accomplishments, the quintet explores a bit more modern hard rock/groove context towards the back half of the record – songs such as “I’m Alive” and “What We Can Bear” swirling with catchy musical / vocal refrains that bristle in EDM/cyber nuances, yet still adding the distortion-filled electricity or slightly down-tuned tone necessary to keep people headbanging. The record ends on a thunderous note with “Into the Dark”, dazzling displays of synchronicity between the guitars, keyboards, and bass while the drum work deftly moves between power, groove, and progressive measures as Per unleashes more of his multi-octave vocal prowess.
Resolute in its melodic metal stance, Black Sun isn’t exactly going to turn the world ablaze in terms of its approach. The Grandmaster delivers an interesting mix of modern meets power songwriting, adding in a flair for dramatic soundscapes to polish off their style – which if you love the international flavor present in the group, could gain favor in your cherished collections.