MASTERPLAN
"Aeronautics"

(AFM)

01. Crimson Rider
02. Back For My Life
03. Wounds
04. I'm Not Afraid
05. Headbanger's Ballroom
06. After This War
07. Into The Arena
08. Dark From The Dying
09. Falling Sparrow
10. Black In The Burn

RATING: 9/10

MASTERPLAN's self-titled debut was definitely the most pleasant surprise of 2003 — an excellently melodic produced power metal album that was aided greatly by the presence of former ARK/YNGWIE MALMSTEEN singer Jorn Lande, possibly the best traditional singer the heavy rock genre has produced in the last 10 years. This, the group's follow-up release, continues pretty much where the debut left off, with the same production team and lineup returning to offer what will likely to turn out to be one of 2005's finest releases.

MASTERPLAN's sound is only slightly reminiscent of HELLOWEEN, the band guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch were unceremoniously booted from shortly before making the decision to launch their current project. More often than not, MASTERPLAN tend to come across like a 21st century version of RAINBOW, with Lande's chest-pumping delivery leading the way over a sea of thick guitar riffs and thunderous drums that never get in the way of the band's ability to write actual "songs."

On the whole, "Aeronautics" is probably not as immediate as its predecessor, with some of the tracks requiring a repeat airing before they are fully embedded in the listener's mind. This said, it is in no way a step down from the standards set on that brilliant debut offering — in fact, it is so stylistically and sonically similar to the band's first album that one could argue that a more experimental approach will be needed next time around in order to keep things from getting stale.

While bands like HAMMERFALL and PRIMAL FEAR are seemingly content to pay tribute to their influences by rehashing their favorite '80s metal groups' material and calling it their own, MASTERPLAN — along with such forward-thinking power metal acts as KAMELOT and NOCTURNAL RITES — prove that there is indeed plenty of life left in the genre. "Aeronautics", like "Masterplan", is a must-have album for anyone that has an appreciation for all things heavy and melodic.

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