Masterplan – “PumpKings” (AFM Records)
With Helloween’s “Pumpkins United” reunion tour set to kick off in a coupla months, you can bet this album is no mere coincidence ha ha! Unceremoniously kicked out of the band in 2001, guitarist Roland Grapow immediately formed Masterplan with equally ejected drummer Uli Kusch, and while both bands have continued in their own right, it’s hard for anyone, including his former band mates to overlook Grapow’s contributions that went well beyond his guitar playing to composing songs over the course of his 12 year tenure across 8 albums! Although not part of the reunion, apparently relations between Grapow and Helloween are reputedly better these days and on this 11 track album, he has chosen to revisit what he still regards as great days of old in re-recording some of his compositions – albeit in the Masterplan style! Right from the off, it’s clear these are heavier interpretations although no less lacking in abundant, catchy melodies and manifestly clear in the vocal department, with Rick Altzi’s rough n ready style making for a ballsy contrast to that of the high n clean singing of Michael Kiske and Andi Deris. Chosen from albums like “Pink Bubbles Go Ape”, “Chameleon”, “Master Of The Rings”, “The Time Of The Oath” and “The Dark Ride”, songs like ‘Someone’s Crying’ are given a new rock out treatment, the powerfully atmospheric ballad of ‘Music’ is enhanced and the sheer epic scale of ‘The Dark Ride’ are impressively brought back to life in a new and in my opinion better style, evoking all the great memories for me and resonating even more power and passion through Masterplan and not in the least, Grapow himself. After all that’s been said on both sides, it’s nice to see that something positive came out of all that bitterness….