It has already been two years since MASTERPLAN pleased most Power Metal kids and Metal lovers in general, with their self titled debut. It was a mixed affair for my ears, I got a good kick out of it but I kept my pants on while some were overthrown by its “new super group featuring former HELLOWEEN members” pre hyped arrival. Although not groundbreaking in any way, MASTERPLAN isn’t just another face in the crowd, they’ve got identity and are doing their best to blend their basic Metal know hows with strong hooks and changing tempos, in other words: Jorn and his boys are aiming for a classic sound in a modern time on “Aeronautics”.
The title refers to the science, art, theory and practice of designing, building and operating aircraft. Pardon my cynicism but that’s a load of hooey. Opening cut “Crimson Rider” (the intro reminds me of the igniting seconds of MAIDEN’s “Moonchild”) is indeed a take off to the sky and definitely lets you feel the wind turn, cool and heavy, but the lyrics are far from being history lessons about the Wright brothers or how you fly a modern jumbo jet, dammit, it doesn’t even say where the controls are at and they chose “Aeronautics” as the final title, oh well, a title is a title I guess. Anyway, I was disappointed with the preheating single so I wasn’t sure if I’d like the full length.
“Aeronautics” is a slight change in mood and sound values. The music is instantly recognisable but without the aid and influence of Janne Wirman (C.O.B.) it treads a heavier path. New keyboard figure and band compadre Axel Mackenrott had already been credited as the keyboard player on the debut but it was Janne who made the execution of all the keyboards (minus one song), unfortunately the beer and vodka was calling and he had to heed the sign of the reaper spotted in an dark cloudy sky and tour U.S. territory again. Actually, I’m glad to have the hard boozing Finn out of the picture, I like Mackenrott’s style, they sound more unique than the circus sounds we got on “Spirit Never Dies” and “Kind Hearted Light”, they simply fit better on this album.
At first, the album won’t sound terribly different than the last one. The changes aren’t hidden and I’ve picked up a few things that strengthen the band’s style. Gone are nearly all the neoclassical keyboards, the joy of writing Power Metal isn’t there anymore, the joy of writing Rock’n’Roll and semi progressive tunes with retro atmospherical tones is very much alive, keyboards have take a step back but are still important to the songs and finally, vocal extraordinaire Jorn Lande has come down with a case of the blues. As mentioned, the lyrics are not about flying high, it’s more about being down and going through shit, the word cry is used frequently and has to be carried by a more darkened atmosphere, I know you’re thinking “The Dark Ride – Part Two” and you’re wrong, there’s more to this quintet than the occasional Happy Metal song, which in this case only counts “Wounds” and “Headbanger’s Ballroom”.
Exciting tracks like “I’m Not Afraid”, “Falling Sparrow”, “After This War” (a remake of an IRON SAVIOR track that I’m not familiar with) and “Black In The Burn” uncovers a transition happening within the band, one that settles for somewhat simple and catchy song writing complimenting the new levels of atmosphere brought by the supportive keyboards, awesome lead melodies and Jorn’s perfect harmonies and soulful rock voice, this new melodramatic approach really peaks on my current favourite “Into The Arena”, love those hard working guitars. Nine minute rollercoaster “Black In The Burn” shatters the progressive glory of “Soulburn”, it’s bigger, heavier and better, everyone in the band works this track, the chemistry just reeks on this fine song, especially between Grapow and his shiny Gibson guitar and the guitar god solos pouring out of it.
Musically, this album works better and the sound is powerful but there was something in the debut which made it more cherished, nevertheless, with the metallic dynamics in place and the atmosphere providing serious backup, “Aeronautics” gets my Metal blessings and is sure to please any fan of well made Melodic Metal. (Online April 6, 2005)