I know I don't really have the authority to make something official, but what the hell. It's official: Jorn Lande's golden throat makes any album on which it appears an essential listen. Consider Ark, Beyond Twilight and Millenium. Now comes Masterplan, perhaps the best of that bunch.
The man's voice, a lethal combination of David Coverdale and molten lava, lends a keen sense of adventure to each of the 11 songs on Masterplan's self-titled debut. Of course, having ex-Helloween guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch involved doesn't hurt, either. Toss in bass player Jan S. Eckert (ex-Iron Savior), journeyman keyboardist Axel Mackenrott, producer Andy Sneap (Nevermore, Blaze) and mix-man Mikko Karmila (Stratovarius, Edguy), and you've got one of the young year's best melodic metal releases that doesn't adhere to any preconceived notions of the genre.
With lyrics revolving around humankind's darker side and heavy anthems that'll remind you why you love metal so much in the first place, Masterplan is a slab of music that deserves to spend a lifetime in your collection. From the rousing and sweeping "Enlighten Me" to the scorched-earth ferocity of "Soulburn," from the straight-ahead headbanger "Crystal Night" to the surprising closer "When Love Comes Close," there isn't a filler track to be found. A few of the songs ("Bleeding Eyes" and "Crawling From Hell") aren't quite as memorable as other tracks here, but they are far from second-rate. One of the highest highlights is "Into the Light," which opens as a ballad with Lande singing in perhaps the softest voice he possesses before the track explodes into a major chorus that could shatter glass. Even former Helloween singer Michael Kiske joins Lande on the infectious "Heroes."
None of these songs are too fast or too slow. Like everything else with Masterplan, they're just right. Here's hoping these guys stick together longer than the other projects in which Lande has been involved. Masterplan is a damn-near metal masterpiece.