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Masterplan: PumpKings

Between Hansen & Friends and Unisonic both featuring Kai Hansen-Michael Kiske era Helloween numbers in their recently released live at Wacken sets and, of course, the hugely anticipated Pumpkins Reunited tour where the guitarist and singer have teamed up once more with their ex-Helloween bandmates (and their own eventual replacements), there's a serious outbreak of pumpkinitis spreading throughout Europe, with the population of Germany most deeply affected. Left on the outside looking in as these 30th anniversary celebrations grow larger and larger has been Masterplan mastermind Roland Grapow, the man who initially replaced Hansen on guitar and went on to spend 12 years with the band before seeking new challenges. For some that omission seems a little churlish but if you can't join the Pumpkins Reunited, then why not be the PumpKing of your own realm? Hence Grapow has re-crafted 11 Helloween classics from his time with the band Pink Bubbles Go Ape in 1991 through to The Dark Ride in 2000 and for want of a better expression, Masterplanned them.

With vocalist Rick Altzi the current incumbent of the master-microphone, he has the unenviable task of taking on material formerly handled by Kiske and Andi Deris no mean feat and in the main gives a good, if different, account of himself. Much deeper, gruffer and rougher than the two Helloweeners, his more gritty tones pull a version of Helloween that had already begun shedding their speed metal skin further into the power metal realm that followed. It's something that can also be said for these versions of the songs themselves, the likes of "Someone's Crying", "Mr. Ego" and "The Time Of The Oath" much more straight ahead dare I say less tongue in cheek than the originals and in many ways benefiting from the forceful push and shove they're given. Add in the keyboards of Axel Mackenrot and while any long term fans of Helloween will immediately recognise the songs being offered up for reappraisal, so too will they marvel at the differences between the originals and these newly crafted works.

Are they better? It's a pretty unfair question, for even while Helloween became a little (or depending on where you live, a lot) more niche after Kiske's departure, they still produced the goods big style on albums such as The Master Of The Rings and The Dark Ride. Instead, what Grapow and the boys have done here is add some rough edges to a more straight up take on Helloween, while smoothing out some others. Maybe it would just be easier to say that they've made them more Masterplan in truth, what else could they do?

There's no doubt that PumpKings will have a fair few detractors, this album not really sounding like Helloween, while often veering far enough from the Masterplan core sound that the results are neither quite one thing or the other. However, it's hard to criticise Roland Grapow's chagrin at watching the reunited pumpkins from the sidelines, especially having been one of their number for more than a third of their thirty years. Not quite the best of both worlds, PumpKings is still a fine tribute to his and his ex-bandmates time together and a lot of fun into the bargain.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing
1. The Chance
2. Someone's Crying
3. Mankind
4. Step Out Of Hell
5. Mr. Ego
6. Still We Go
7. Escalation 666
8. The Time Of The Oath
9. Music
10. The Dark Ride
11. Take Me Home

Added: July 24th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: PumpKings at AFM Records
Hits: 2259
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Masterplan: PumpKings
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2017-07-24 09:51:28
My Score:

To celebrate his decade plus time spent with speed/power metal legends Helloween, guitarist Roland Grapow and the rest of his band Masterplan have revisited some of the songs he originally recorded with his former mates between the years of 1991 and 2000, and titled it PumpKings. Current Masterplan belter Rick Altzi has the pleasure of handling the vocal lines of both Michael Kiske and Andi Deris here, and does a fine job considering he doesn't really sound like either, helping give these very solid old Helloween tunes a much different spin. Seeing as Masterplan also are a different beast altogether despite the presence of Grapow, this comes across very much like a 'Masterplan' album rather than a Helloween covers album, which, for those who perhaps aren't that familiar with Helloween's output past the 1980's, will make for an interesting treat. Some very fine tunes tackled here, like the majestic "Mankind", the raging "Step Out of Hell" (Altzi more than channeling ex-Masterplan vocalist Jorn Lande ), a thick 'n' crunchy take on "Mr. Ego", and a gloriously heavy take on "Time of the Oath", the latter again featuring a fabulous vocal from Altzi.

As for timing, it's not surprising that Grapow decided to do this now seeing as Helloween are set to take part in some reunion shows featuring Kiske & Kai Hansen along with the current band, so plenty of 'pumpkin mania' to go around in the metal world these days, which I'm sure most fans are pretty damn happy about.

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