Helloween alumni Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch made the best of their quarrelsome ousting from the German power metal pioneers, quickly getting right back into the thick of it with a new band project called Masterplan. Surrounding themselves with fellow veterans of the power metal community like Ark vocalist Jorn Lande and Iron Saviour bassist Jan S. Eckert only helped speed up their trajectory, and a record deal and debut E.P. soon set the stage for 2003's eponymous debut. And to their credit, Masterplan have concocted a remarkably memorable album, one which displays surprising variety and creativity within a severely over-crowded sub-genre with, let's admit, very little experimental wiggle room. Guitarist Grapow obviously relishes the chance to monopolize six-string activities for the first time, unleashing some remarkable pyrotechnic displays on "Crawling from Hell" and "Bleeding Eyes," but it's arguably singer Lande who is the group's ace in the hole. Eschewing the operatic excesses of many competitors, his full-throated, versatile power and impressive range (listen to him flex like Ronnie James Dio on "Crystal Night") render the added personality that allows highlights like "Kind Hearted Light," "Into the Light," and first single "Enlighten Me" stand out (hmm, what's up with the 'light' theme). In fact, we're six tracks in before the first (and thankfully last) unbearably cheesy chorus ("We're the heroes of a new world!" -- ugh!) surfaces by way of "Heroes," but this proves to be the only serious offender on an otherwise excellent effort. Incidentally, keyboards courtesy of Axel Mackenrott also do their part, taking an active part in the proceedings while rarely overwhelming them inconveniently. Delivering on the promised of their E.P., this debut bodes well for the band's future.
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia