On the heels of my not-so-positive Katatonia review, I'll post this nicer one. In the same buying spree mentioned before, I also snagged Masterplan's Time To Be King.
On paper, Masterplan should be the height of cheese. German power metal band. Ex-members of 80s powerhouse Helloween. Giant crown on album cover with fist-pumping slogan/title underneath.
Bastard child of cro-magnon metallers Manowar and frilly unicorn riders Rhapsody of Fire from the looks of things. I can handle doses of over-pomp (Royal Hunt) and a switching things up, like Kamelot recruiting Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir to do some black metal rasps within their usually Renn Faire stylings, can go a long way to establishing some coolness.
Masterplan gets its props past the swords and fairies for two reasons; they can be deadly 'hard' at times with serious chunk to the guitars and whopping double base, yeah... but the BIG reason is the vocalist, motherfuckin' Jorn Lande.
Khan in Kamelot can sing. He's a great singer. Hell, most power metal bands have vocalists with decent pipes... if tending a little too much in the upper registers. But Jorn is the fucking man. He does not get way up high in the shriek-y ranges, though given the power and range he does display it wouldn't suprise me if he could. He has feeling, real emotive power. Masterplan's song subjects range all over the place, but are usually personal or individual. Stuff about love, loss, isolation, etc. They cover the occasional power metal staples about fighting, glory, or evil, but mostly it is Jorn singing about the kind of thing you'd find in other forms of rock music only its done to punchy, galloping metal. This album cover and title is actually kind of an odd choice. Earlier album Aeronautics looks much more sophisticated (read less stereotypical) and seems MUCH more accurate in terms of what you're getting with this band.
Jorn reminds me of Russell Allen of Symphony X somewhat. In more recent years Russell has varied his vocals quite a bit to suit the subject matter of SymX's songs and consequently he's had to reach down for really low or gruff deliveries at times. His recent stuff on album Paradise Lost is much more varied and emotional than the earlier releases like Damnation Game. Some genius saw this same parallel because Russell and Jorne have released some collaborative albums. I like Russell just fine, but Jorn is even better.
He is just so 'soulful' I think. That's a weird term to use for a power metal vocalist, but Jorn does a lot of singing that probably wouldn't fall in that genre... Masterplan ain't his only gig. Actually he left the band after Aeronautics and I figured that was probably the end of my Masterplan purchases. But he came back and really helped knock Time To Be King out of the park. Take your favorite rock vocalist (that doesn't sound drunk or like a girl) and cross them with Evergrey's Tom Englund (or mainstream-ly maybe Bob Seger or Joe Cocker) and you'll get some idea of all the places Jorn can reach.
Metal music by its nature is dramatic. As often as not, over-the-top. Whether it's dark, or pompous, or partying, or gory, metal doesn't really deal in half-measures. Masterplan is not going to make anyone really dig the power metal style if there's absolutely no taste for it, but Jorn will certainly get the listener to forget about that cover. Or that power metal HAS to have kings and dragons in it. Even when he's singing about kings and dragons.