January 26, 2024

I guess the rock world is really split into two camps, those who adore Masterplan and the rest just waiting to discover this amazing, stupendous German hard rock/power metal band. No prizes for guessing which side of the divide I am on but for those not yet in the know, Masterplan was put together by guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch when they had departed Helloween in 2001. Their self-titled debut was then put out in 2003 and was immediately acclaimed as a perfect and soon to be classic rock album with five more quite brilliant albums following with the last being the PumpKings album in 2017 which saw Grapow re-visiting and re-working songs from his Helloween period.

2022 year saw the 20th anniversary of the debut release so what better time to revisit the work and put it out complete with three bonus songs and a live DVD featuring a 53-minute performance from Gothenburg 2003 plus a previously unavailable documentary than runs for 48-minutes. Grapow played guitar, bass and keyboards on the album with Kusch supplying the drums and keyboard arrangements and programming with vocals coming from the one and only Jørn Lande and this surely must be his most spectacular performance to date as his Dio tinged voice blends superbly with the immense skills of Grapow making the debut almost as good as the legendary Rainbow Rising, a big call I know but one that I firmly believe in.

Technically a three-piece at the stage, they brought in former Helloween colleague Michael Kirske to duet on Heroes and keyboards came courtesy of Janne Wirman with a cameo from Freddy Doernberg on Into The Light and, apparently, some session musicians became involved too. Quite possibly, Masterplan was the pinnacle for the band with future albums always being compared to it but this is hardly surprising given how everything came together perfectly for this hard rock classic. Give it a spin to see that the reviews and comments at the time were not hyperbole as it was and remains the real deal!

This new version sees the addition of three extra tracks which have previously been put out on overseas releases with The Kid Rocks On, Through Thick & Thin and a brave call in a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog which the band pulls off with aplomb. Talking bonus tracks then the concert footage from Gothenburg is a must see and is a remarkable gig showing a band in its pomp and thoroughly enjoying themselves in front of a boisterous and partisan crowd. The featured tracks are all obviously from the debut being Spirit Never Die, Enlighten Me, Crystal Night, Heroes, Soulburn, Into The Light, Bleeding Eyes and Crawling from Hell with Lande, Grapow and Kusch being joined by Jan S. Eckert on bass and Axel Mackenrott on keyboards.

The DVD footage is not HD quality but it is remarkably clear for its age with a great picture and exemplary sound quality and the band is truly on fire and relishing in the new material they are serving up for a devoted audience. Come on, it’s Masterplan in their prime, the legendary debut and some great concert footage which makes this a real must have.

Fantastic band, no more needs to be said!

Masterplan (Anniversary Edition)

  1. Spirit Never Die (5:26)
  2. Enlighten Me (4:38)
  3. Kind Hearted Light (4:25)
  4. Crystal Night (5:15)
  5. Soulburn (6:16)
  6. Heroes (3:31)
  7. Sail On (4:36)
  8. Into The Light (4:10)
  9. Crawling From Hell (4:12)
  10. Bleeding Eyes (5:39)
  11. When Love Comes Close (4:08)
  12. The Kid Rocks On (3:40)
  13. Through Thick & Thin (4:03)
  14. Black Dog (Led Zeppelin cover (4:34)