Helloween basically invented power metal, or at least set the blueprint with the initial ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’ albums. It’s well known that the path the band took after these albums was not so bright, including music that got less heavy, more experimental and just didn’t live up to what came before. They did turn it around and get better with time, and continue to release good music, but those two albums remain the highlight.
Why are we talking about Helloween? Well, Masterplan is a band that started as a side project for Helloween guitarist Roland Grapow. It became his full time job when he was kicked from the band. The first line up released two strong albums. Since then, like Helloween, their output has been patchy and not to the level of their early work. In this case, it was decided to release an album of covers of Helloween songs, specifically songs that Roland had a hand in. This translates to three songs from the universally panned ‘Pink Bubbles Go Ape’, two from the overly poppy ‘Chameleon’, three from ‘Master of the Rings’, one from ‘The Time of the Oath’ and two from ‘The Dark Ride’. ‘Better than Raw’ is the album that doesn’t get a look in.
While the albums these songs are taken from have various sounds, the band does a good job of homogenizing them to sound reasonably coherent as an album. It’s a mixed bag of songs, but it’s certainly not terrible. There’s some decent tracks here, and if you’re a fan of Masterplan, there’s enough here to keep you going. The simple fact is, you’re unlikely to recognize many of these songs unless you’re a hardcore Helloween fan. And that’s really the flaw of the album. Once you know these are covers, you’re left wondering why. The Helloween songs you most love and want most to hear reimagined simply predate the time frame these guys had to work with.
The album starts off strong with ‘The Chance’, possibly the best song on offer. ‘Someone’s crying’ comes on at high speed but doesn’t quite gel. ‘Mankind’ slows things down (we’re still on Pink Bubbles at this stage). Of the songs so far, this one sounds the most like Masterplan. Lots of single note riffing on this one. You can imagine Jorn singing it.
Up next is ‘Step out of hell’. It’s from Chameleon, and therefore is quite poppy. The production here is fuller, and at least a bit heavier than the original. ‘Mr Ego’ is another mid tempo song, but not as strong. Again, the production is ‘thicker’ than the original, but in this case, the original is probably better.
‘Still we go’ is from ‘comeback’ album, ‘Master of the rings’. It’s a good song, probably equally good in the original and in the new cover. ‘Escalation 666’ also sounds identical to the original.
‘The time of the oath’ is perhaps the most straight up heavy metal song so far. It’s mid tempo and chunky. Andi Deris sounds better on this song, otherwise they are the same.
‘Music’ has us back to Chameleon. There’s some good guitar work on this song, but it’s definitely more pop than the rest of the CD.
Pretty much all these songs have better production on the new CD. ‘The Dark Ride’ is one of the songs that works well as Masterplan song. The album ends with ‘Take me home’, which is an OK faster song, again sounding pretty much like the original.
It’s hard to work out why this CD exists. There is a link between the two bands, but the songs in question just don’t feel like songs that fans wanted to hear again, particularly. It’s an OK Masterplan album, but it’s certainly not good enough to stop you wishing they’d written some new material instead. Regardless of if you have the originals, you probably only need this if you’re a completionist. Hopefully they release their own material in the near future.