Masterplan – Time To Be King (2010, AFM Records)
- Fiddle Of Time
- Blow Your Winds
- Far From The End Of The World
- Time To Be King
- Lonely Winds Of War
- The Dark Road
- The Sun Is In Your Hands
- The Black One
- Blue Europa
- Under the Moon
- Kisses From You (bonus track)
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Roland Grapow – Guitars
Axel Mackenrott – Keyboards
Jan S. Eckert – Bass
Mike Terrana – Drums
Producer: Roland Grapow
Total Time = 47:49
Masterplan is back again with their fourth album, TIME TO BE KING, but that isn’t the big news…..original lead singer Jorn Lande has returned to the microphone once again! I’ve been a Masterplan fan right from the self-titled debut in 2003 through to MK II (2007) that featured ex-Riot lead singer Mike DiMeo on lead vocals…..I have also been a fan of Jorn’s since the first Ark album in 1999 so I have no idea how I missed this announcement. The change from Jorn to DiMeo in 2007 took my by surprise but the album was really good, very powerful Power Metal. DiMeo was Riot’s singer for close to 15 years and through 6 studio albums so he had the voice but I identified Masterplan with Jorn Lande.
Masterplan is always going to be thought of as a Power Metal group because of the long list of bands that the members have been involved with. Founding guitarist Roland Grapow is formerly from Helloween, drummer Mike Terrana from Rage, Yngwie and Axel Rudi Pell, then you’ve got Jorn’s long history. Add Jan Eckert’s time in Running Wild & Iron Savior and Axel Mackenrott’s involvement in Gamma Ray and you can see what direction the band is going to go in. The Power Metal tag is going to scare some fans away because of the backlash against the genre, something I have never undertsood. I’m a big Power Metal fan, I find it as close to the traditional ’80s Metal that I grew up with as you can get. The good thing about Masterplan is that, although they are considered Power Metal, the band incorporates a lot of Progressive elements into the music to give it a more epic sound. You can also hear a more traditional Hard Rock style creeping in to many songs…..maybe that’s part and parcel of Jorn’s versatile vocal ability channelling the likes of Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan and David Coverdale. Sometimes a classic voice like Jorn’s influences the songwriting more than is expected. MK II with DiMeo was more Power Metal while TIME TO BE KING with Jorn is diverse blend of styles.
Opening track ‘Fiddle Of Time’ starts out with a very prominent swirling keyboard but moves into more guitar oriented territory until that keyboard riff returns again after the chorus. It’s a heavy song, definitely a good way to start the album, and it has a very classic sound like Uriah Heep or Deep Purple but more Progressive Metal like a Royal Hunt. ‘Blow Your Winds’ follows a catchy ’80s Hard Rock path like a Joe Lynn Turner fronted Rainbow and ‘Far From The End Of The World’ is pure Power Metal with heavy keyboard arrangements. I can’t help but be reminded of Royal Hunt again by the keyboards and guitars playing off each other making ‘Far From The Edge Of The World’ sound so lush and epic. The title track has the same elements also and that kind of makes things a bit repetitive, the band using the same formula on the first and third songs already, but it’s still a solid performance. The band mixes things up a little with the quiet keyboard/acoustic guitar/marching drum intro on ‘Lonely Winds Of War’, a song that I would categorize as an epic ballad. There’s a lot of power in the song but it’s not fast by any means, Roland Grapow’s guitar solos are very melodic and Jorn’s vocal is my favorite on the record, a blend of power and emotion.
‘The Dark Road’ opens similarly to ‘Time To Be King’ and ‘Fiddle Of Time’ with the big guitar/keyboard riffs but it moves into unexpected territory of a second epic ballad in a row. Jorn does his best David Coverdale and the slower parts of the song remind me of ’70s Dio-era Rainbow mixed with the bluesier side of Whitesnake or Coverdale-era Deep Purple. Such a huge sound here, very layered and grand…..best song on the album! The music gets heavier on ‘The Sun Is In Your Hands’ but you can hear a little of that Hard Rock style mixed in with the Power Metal. Listen to the guitar solo but pay attention to the drums…..Mike Terrana is a beast on this entire album and his double kick style is as subtle as it is powerful. I like ‘The Black One’ just for it’s thick bassline that starts it off and comes back to start each verse. There’s a thick sound here, plenty of layers between the guitars, bass, keys and drums but Jorn pulls it all together with a gritty vocal. Add another solid guitar solo by Grapow, and the big drum fills by Terrana, and it’s another favorite of mine. ‘Blue Europa’ is another harder track that grabs me with it’s World War II inspired lyrics and heavy guitar while ‘Under The Moon’ is a more progressive and epic song that slows everything down but gets more powerful as the song continues. There’s an ambient tone to the song during the quieter parts when it’s really just the keyboard and the vocal, definitely subdued. I like ‘Under The Moon’ because it’s more straight-forward with not a lot of swirling keyboards and intricate guitars, it reminds me a little of the symphonic Pink Floyd-ian style The Gathering used on HOW TO MEASURE A PLANET? (1999) but with Jorn’s rich voice.
The version I picked up was the European limited edition, gold-embossed digipak with the bonus track ‘Kisses From You’. On first listen, you would swear that ‘Kisses From You’ was a Queen cover song that was done extremely well. Everything from the guitar tone, to the piano, to the complete arrangement is pure Queen. I sat in front of my Queen collection looking for the song on one of the album, maybe as a B-side or a bonus track but it wasn’t there! Turns out ‘Kisses From You’ is an original and it’s dead on Queen inspired…..definitely a favorite!
Masterplan has continued where they left off in 2005 with AERONAUTICS now that Jorn Lande has returned to the vocal slot, TIME TO BE KING is a solid album and a great comeback. I don’t get all this backlash toward Power Metal…..is it the imagery? The higher vocals? The clean musicianship? Not everything has to be harsh or extreme to be vital and comtemporary. Masterplan is a band of five solid musicians that are at the top of their game delivering a grand performance that us truly one of the best of the year. Some of the songs follow the same formula but that can be said of any song on any album in any genre. There isn’t a weak song on TIME TO BE KING and the Progressive elements outweigh and enhance the pure Power Metal formula. If you’re a fan of Power Metal then this is going to be a top album of 2010 but if Power Metal isn’t your thing then you might not like it. So far, this is one of the best albums of the year for me.
Not a weak song on the album and I like them all but if I had to pick five highlights they would be: ”Fiddle Of Time’, ‘Lonely Winds Of War’, ‘The Dark Road’, ‘The Sun Is In Your Hands’, & ‘Under the Moon’