Jorne Lande was an established heavy rock singer, very much in the classic styles of Ronnie James Dio or David Coverdale, but he burst into public knowledge when he helped form Masterplan with Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch after both were ejected from Helloween. On this, their second album and last before Lande departed due to musical differences, they really hit their stride with a sound that mixes the Power Metal leanings of the band, and the more classic sounds pursued by their singers on a solo career that has included a CD called Dio and countless covers of classic songs, not all of them Metal.
Lande is without a doubt one of the best Metal singers of our generation and it’s arguable that he never sounded better than when this band gave him a clearer direction. While his multi-album partnership with Russell Allen is also superior, this is without doubt his best work.
From the start you can hear the push and pull between the stylings Lande is aiming for, and the more Power Metal leanings of the band members. In many ways, it’s this tension that gives the album its strength; that and the chance to hear that glorious voice soaring over riffs that are not full-on Metal, are mostly mid-tempo, but are definitely heavy.
A band like Viking Skull is immediately accessible and lots of fun because it’s straightforward. In comparison, this CD might take a couple of listens but the reason it stays with you and rewards repeat listens is the quality of the songwriting. Every song on this CD oozes class.
One of the strongest songs is ‘I’m Not Afraid,’ starting with guitars that drop back to feature Lande’s singing on a melody that builds up to a soaring chorus. By the second chorus, he’s singing more in an upper register and the guitars are chugging, and the band is firing on all cylinders. The guitar solo is also very tasty, and the subsequent keyboard section is pure class. Probably the highlight of the album.
The songs vary widely, including in how heavy they are, and how much they lean on guitars or keyboards. This is a definite strength; this is an album of great songs that don’t all sound the same. The degree to which they sound like solo Lande rather than subsequent Masterplan makes it pretty clear he did a lot of the songwriting, or at least drove the process.
The last two tracks on the standard release are ‘Fallen Sparrow,’ another strong, driving rocker with a particularly shredding guitar solo, and ‘Black in the Burn,’ which, at nearly 10 minutes, is far and away the longest song on the album. It goes almost without saying that it’s the most soaring song on the album, as well as the heaviest. The song keeps your interest for 10 minutes with great riffs, strong vocals and lots of changes on the way.
Bonus track ‘Treasureworld’ is what you’d expect. A decent song, but probably a good candidate for a song culled from the main album, relatively speaking.
This album was pretty successful when it came out. There really wasn’t much like it around at the time. If you like classic hard rock, and good songwriting and you’ve not heard this, you should.