1. Crimson Rider 2. Back For My Life 3. Wounds 4. Iím Not Afraid 5. Headbangerís Ballroom 6. After This War 7. Into The Arena 8. Dark From The Dying 9. Falling Sparrow 10. Black In The Burn
I'll just say this. I absolutely despised the thought of Helloween splitting in half. I thought it was the most ridiculous thing at the time. While so many fans were complaining that Helloween's sound had drifted from the "true" metal sound into a more modern styling, I had embraced and cherished albums like "Better Than Raw" and "The Dark Ride". I thought those albums were completely before their time, creating a whole new wave of power metal that looked beyond dungeons and dragons to everyday struggles and emotions. With critics worldwide slamming the group and demanding a sound change, I was on the other side of the ballot. I really wanted the band to stick together. History has been written, my deepest fears came true, and behold, Masterplan and Helloween are now in full force. What is the ending result? Two fantastic groups releasing some of the finest metal of our time.
"Aeronautics" is Masterplan's second album, and one that finds the group concentrating on what they really do best, AOR styled rock crossed with power and hard rock. This isn't a far cry from what bands like Edguy, Audiovision, and Crystal Ball are doing. With the band's debut, "Masterplan", in 2003, Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch may have been working some material that was written with Helloween. With that particular release I experienced quite a bit of fast, speedy numbers, songs that really took shape through quick riffs and a more epic song structure. It was certainly not the epic capacity of Helloween, but it did share some of the same ideas and delivery. "Aeronautics" is really a much different album that it's predecessor. With this record the band is a bit more relaxed and composed, using slower tempo cuts to ease the listener into the mood of the album.
At times this album really comes into its own very much like the Jorn Lande solo album "Out To Every Nation". There are a few faster, more frenzied hard rock affairs here, but for the most part the band is painting a more subdued portrait, a vivid creation that is filled with emotion and thought provoking lyrics. Everything from inner struggles to lost love is explored within the record's track listing. Jorn Lande is just a fabulous singer, really becoming one of my favorite "modern" singers. His ability to determine mood and direction with his vocal tone and register is just amazing. He really has become one of the finest singers of our time. I haven't heard this type of talent and ability since the early to mid-era career of one David Coverdale. He is that good. But let's not forget about the talent of Roland Grapow, who uses quite a bit of patience with this album. His playing style really fits with the Jorn way of creating mood and emotion. On the faster numbers he never gets carried away, and on the slower numbers he allows just enough power and intensity to keep the songs aggressive. Andy Sneap steps in to follow-up his work on the first album, this time around really doing the same type of production, not going completely bombastic but allowing these songs room to breathe.
As I mentioned earlier you aren't going to find tracks like "Soulburn" or "Crawling From Hell" on this album. Those were intense, fury filled staples from the first album that don't quite fit with the band's songwriting style on this release. Certainly tracks like "Crimson Rider" and "Headbanger's Ballroom" are heavy and at times speedy, but they don't measure up to the electric wattage found on the first record. Is this a good thing? Well it really depends on what you are looking for. Personally I look to Helloween for the faster, more fantasy styled stuff. I think of Masterplan as a more rock oriented group, so I really enjoy what "Aeronautics" brings to the table. I enjoy slower numbers like "Back For My Life", "After This War", and "I'm Not Afraid" which could have easily been found on the Jorn solo album. For the most part this album is fairly mid-tempo, with slower passages mixed in with speedy, heavy parts, all brought to life by Grapow's amazing musicianship, a man who is highly underrated in my opinion. Cuts like "Into The Arena" and "Dark From The Dying" are heavy, crunchy styled hymns that really hammer home the fact that Masterplan can be an excellent hard rock band. The album closes with its most epic work, a long orchestrated piece called "Black In The Burn".
This record will more than likely please fans of the first. For those of you who really enjoy the bands and albums that draw hard rock and power metal together, then look no further than Masterplan. Jorn and company are playing this stuff better than anyone else out there. This record was really important for the group, it will determine what type of band Masterplan really is. Helloween's next record will be up to the same measurement. Many fans, including myself, will learn just what is left for Helloween. Hopefully both bands will continue to grow and improve on each release. As for now, all ears and eyes are on this Masterplan album, one of the finest records of 2005 I'm sure. A classy affair from a classy band.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has contributed to MaximumMetal.com since it's conception in 2003. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia. You can also find him on his paperbackwarrior.com blog discussing all things action and adventure.
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