Let me begin by saying that I agree with Frodi in regards to the title of this album. With the exception of “Crimson Rider”, the lyrics of “Aeronautics” have nothing to do with airplanes. So, unless there is some deeper metaphorical meaning behind it (maybe the soaring quality of the music?), the title is lost on me.
Anyway, “Aeronautics” is my first MASTERPLAN experience, which may come as a surprise considering my complete adoration for all things Power Metal. Upon my first few listens, I felt as though I had not been missing much. In fact, I really wondered what all the hype was about. But then something happened. It was around my fifth or sixth listen that “Aeronautics” really opened up for me.
The songwriting on “Aeronautics” is quite varied and, once it opens up, quite excellent as well. The songs range from fast stompers (“Crimson Rider” and “Into The Arena”), to traditional, keyboard-driven, Power Metal tunes (“Wounds” and “Black In The Burn”), to slightly softer, AOR-ish tracks (“Back For My Life”, “I’m Not Afraid”, “After This War” and “Falling Sparrow”), to heavier mid-paced pounders (“Headbanger’s Ballroom” and “Dark From The Dying”). All of the songs are of a very high quality and even the “softer” tracks have a real ballsy edge to them.
The musicianship on “Aeronautics” is second to none, as can only be expected considering the line-up. Jorn Lande (ARK, JORN, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen and many others), has a control over his voice that can only come from being such a seasoned veteran. His bluesy, soulful vocal-style really sets MASTERPLAN apart from many of its peers. Former HELLOWEEN axeman, Roland Grapow, proves himself again as one of Metal’s premier guitarists (check out the solo in “Falling Sparrow”, where the hell did that come from?!?). Drummer Uli Kusch (another former ’WEENIE), adds an almost progressive feel with his adventurous fills. Jan S. Eckert, bass and Axel Mackenrott, keyboards, round out the line-up with very solid performances.
It should also be of note that “Aeronautics” has darker feel to it than most Power Metal releases. Fans of HELLOWEEN’s “The Dark Ride” should really find the mood here to be quite favorable, as there are many similarities between the two albums. This is of no coincidence, of course, as Grapow and Kusch were still amongst the ranks of the pumpkinheads at that time.
So, MASTERPLAN’s “Aeronautics” shaped-up to be quite a pleasing release of dark and varied Power Metal once everything clicked. I highly recommend it to all Power Metal and traditional Heavy Metal fans and possibly to more open-minded AOR fans, as well. (Online February 3, 2006)