While not the most respected of Power Metal outfits, MASTERPLAN definitely has a rather impressive cast of characters rounding out their ranks, and it has become even more interesting since the exodus of Jorn. Enter long time RIOT vocalist Mike DiMeo and AXEL RUDI PELL/METALIUM veteran Mike Terrana, not to mention a former live keyboardist from GAMMA RAY and you’ve managed not only to keep the super group persona, but increased its bounds quite a bit. Now the obvious question is does the music match the men behind it? The answer is, most of the time.
This listens more like a RIOT EP than a MASTERPLAN album and it is not only due to DiMeo’s vocals but also to the backed off aggression and more rock approach to these songs rather than the usual speed/power metal of the last album. The opening instrumental prelude “The Master’s Voice” listens like a national anthem for some unknown country; featuring a choir, a bombastic horn section, and ending with fireworks being heard in the background. “Lost And Gone” is a slower mid-tempo song with simple riffs and a keyboard line that sounds a bit too similar to “Soulburn” off the first album. Mike’s vocals are on point, there is a short double bass passage over a pretty impressive guitar solo, but ultimately the song is a little too short for it’s own good. It makes for good radio play, but I sometimes wonder how much better it would be if they just dragged out the solo another 10 or 15 seconds.
The other two songs on here are also good for the most part. “Dying Just To Live” is a ballad that is mostly acoustic and kind of plods until we reach the chorus, where DiMeo ratchets up the vocal delivery and we hit the high point of the song. Roland occasionally throws in some nice dual harmony guitar fills to give some extra texture, but ultimately DiMeo is the driving force behind this song. “Keeps Me Burning” is an upper mid-tempo rocker with a bit more energy than the title track of this EP, but doesn’t listen much different from “Heroes” off the debut, save that the vocals have a higher tinge to them and I once again hear some echoes of the better days in RIOT’S time as a force for metal’s continued existence in the 1990s.
Ultimately this EP is a pretty good listen, but I’m left wanting more, which was pretty much the case with the “Enlighten Me” single. There is no real speed track that truly picks this off the ground; it all stays within the bounds of what is normally deemed safe for rock radio. My hope is that there are some faster songs in the same vain as “The Spirit Never Dies” and “Wounds” on the full length album “MK II”, which I currently have on order. Fans of MASTERPLAN might be a little bit disappointed that Jorn isn’t at the helm anymore, but from my end of things this is a positive as I’ve been disappointed with the direction of RIOT on they’re last two albums and this is a clear step up from what has been going on over there of late.
(Online March 14, 2009)