I was a big fan of the last MASTERPLAN album, and along with the still excellent “MK II” would put it up there with the finest work this band has ever laid down. Since “Time To Be King” MASTERPLAN have had another line-up change which seems to be a custom between albums now for these guys. Rick Altzi who some of you guys will recognise from HERMAN FRANK and AT VANCE is filling in the oft vacant vocal spot of Jorn Lande, (can that guy stay put for more than two seconds?) and further rounding out the band is Jari Kainulainen on bass, and Martin Skaroupka behind the kit who have both done time in countless European acts, from STRATOVARIUS to SYMPHONITY.
“Novum Initium” is the fifth full-length from Roland Grapow and co, and sadly sees the band running out of steam and going through the motions. If you’re at all familiar with their previous output, particularly the Jorn Lande fronted albums (“MK II” was always something of an anomaly in their discog) then I can assure you there isn’t anything new or exciting to be found here on “Novum Initium”. Rick Altzi is a good singer - and particularly proved his worth on the last HERMAN FRANK album – although here he doesn’t really go above or beyond his talents, delivering a standard husky performance, atypical of the hard rock/metal crowd.
As for the music across the board, MASTERPLAN largely keep in check with their genre conventions, dishing out a decidedly trite array of modern power metal. I’m disappointed to say that this feels almost completely bereft of energy, and even amongst the albums stronger tracks such as “No Escape” or “Return From Avalon”; one listen to “Warrior's Cry” from “MK II” blows them out of the water. There’s nothing all the memorable about “Novum Initium” either, with the hooks and refrains alike being decidedly unspectacular. Even Roland Grapow’s usually spectacular guitar work takes something of a backseat, and whilst some of these songs have guitar solos I’m hard pressed to remember if they’re even there.
It’s unfortunate having to come off hard on a band you support, and hopefully “Novum Initium” is the sound of MASTERPLAN coming to terms with a new line-up, maybe next time they’ll be able to put out something a little more special. For now though, this one is without a doubt by the book, and as such a little hard to get excited about or recommend. Okay at best, I could take it or leave it.
(Online November 3, 2013)