Album review: MASTERPLAN – Novum Initium

Masterplan - Novum Initium

AFM Records [Release date 14.06.13 June 14th]

“Novum Initium” or “A New Beginning” to those who do not understand Latin is the fifth album from Masterplan and their first since “Time to Be King” back in 2010.

Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch were both fired from Helloween back in 2001 for deciding a start a side project and thus Masterplan were formed. Kusch departed in 2006 and therefore Masterplan is to all intent and purpose Grapow’s baby.

This time around only Grapow and keyboard player Axel Mackenrott remain from the previous release and they are joined by former Stratovarius bassist Jari Kainulainen, Cradle of Filth (we’ll forgive him…) drummer Martin Skaroupka and At Vance vocalist Rick Altzi. Grapow was fed up with the situation of not being able to tour his band with previous vocalists Mike DeMeo (Riot) and the mighty Jorn Lande so he is making a new start (or Novum Initium) with this line up and live dates are already booked.

The album is book-ended by the Latin numbers – track I “Per Aspira Ad Astra” (through hard work to the stars) is a short orchestral number which definitely grabs your attention once the drums and guitars kick in. Track XI is the epic title track which cannot be faulted from its opening piano refrain through its “sinister vocal” and “melodic vocal” interplay to its almost spoken conclusion.

Sandwiched in between are a mixture of Blind Guardian/Helloween like numbers such as “The Game”, classic melodic rock such as “Keep Your Dream Alive” and “Pray on My Soul”. Anomalies like the Eastern flavoured “Betrayal” are a welcome addition to the band’s sound. “Black Night of Magic” deserves a mention for just being a classic song and highly memorable chorus…all together now “I feel the madness rising from the ground”.

Rick Altzi does an excellent job on the vocals with his gruffer style than Jorn Lande. Guitar solos from Mr Grapow himself fit in perfectly with each song and never outstay their welcome. The keyboards are usually understated upon first listen but after a few listens you realise how important they are to the overall sound. The rhythm section cannot be faulted…they do exactly what’s required of them in giving everything a solid backbone.

Enjoyable release and big improvement on the much debated “Time to Be King” release. Hopefully this line up will stick around…  ****

Review by Phil Berisford

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