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Music Reviews: Sun Domingo, Masterplan, Neverland, Kissin’ Dynamite, Ereb Altor, Delain

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This week’s column has a dark cloud over it as we mourn the passing of the great Ronnie James Dio. He was one hell of a singer and inspired so many that followed him. He will be sorely missed by all who loved metal.

CD reviews

Sun Domingo: Live in Montreal

Never heard of this lot and I doubt you have either. Generally not a good idea to hear a band for the first time via a live release. So this bunch had quite a bit to do to get me interested. The saga of how this came about, didn’t melt this cynical reviewer's heart. They always wanted to open for Marillion and, after years of effort, got a chance to in Montreal in 09.

Despite the fact they are a three piece, they are not Canadian. I mean the lead singer plays bass, ala Geddy Lee as well. All that said the band actually delivers on this release, despite its warts and all live feel. And if you are at all on the wobble, their version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” will push you over the edge in appreciation. In short the band does a fine line in accessible progressive rock. The fact the band is so tight helps quite a bit. You will find yourself warming to the band a couple songs in, I am pretty sure.

So a decent band with a fun story to tell, living their dream, and delivering the goods. What is there not to like?

Masterplan: Time to be King

First things first: Jorn Lande is back in the fold fronting the band after departing over musical differences after their third album. All respect to Mike DiMeo, but the version of Masterplan he fronted just didn’t cut the mustard. Masterplan you will recall was the side-project for two members of Helloween’s Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch, until they got sacked by Helloween and it became their full-time gig. Kusch has since left the band.

The only problem for Masterplan is that they set the bar so high with their debut. Everything that has followed has a hard time living up to it. That said, nothing they release is bad in any way, most power metal bands would beg to release one of their cast off tracks. This release is a solid power metal release, but does not have the immediacy of their debut. It rewards multiple listens as a certain grower that builds into something quite satisfying. “Far from the End of the World,” the first single, is a great track, but doesn’t muster that instant gratification of say a “Spirit Never Die” or “When Love Comes Close” off their debut.

That said you will be hard pressed to find a better melodic power metal album than this release. It just takes time to get under your skin. Grapow can rest assured this release blows spots off Helloween’s latest. Yet again Masterplan are back to show us how it's supposed to be done.

Neverland: Ophidia

Subheaded “Dreamtone & Iris Mavraki's” this band is a combination of Turkish band with a Greek singer. Now anyone aware of that part of the world knows that Greeks and Turks getting along is quite a feat; the fact they are in a band together is quite fascinating. What is more is they do a fine line in progressive power metal. Nothing ground breaking, but a quite decent sort of music.

The dual vocals gives the tunes an edge level of complexity as well. This their second album and one that could get them noticed by the power metal hordes. There is a smattering of traditional instruments lurking therein, no more so than on the title track. The band seems keen to draw from whatever works best, so there is some variety on this release that you might not find on all releases of this kind. “Final Odyssey” has an intro, that sounds a bit 80s dance music at first that soon gets blown away.

Let's hope this release will raise the profile of the band in the US. Considering how many Neverlands there are and the length of their current name, a new moniker might help ward off any confusion. Certainly a band that deserves your ears. Proving Turks and Greeks can work together one note at a time.

Kissin' Dynamite: Addicted to Metal

The title track features Udo Dirkschneider late of Accept (again) and solo artist of note, and is what you would expect. Yep, it’s a fists in the air anthemic announcement of their intent. Short on subtlety these guys channel Accept and Krokus at every turn. Throw in lashings of AC/DC, not surprising considering they take their name from an Angus & Co song.

“Run for your Life” is pure 80s heavy rock with a slightly heavier edge. As you can imagine it contains a solid solo and catchy chorus. This lot of Germans seem to have come from the gene pool as Airbourne. Considering how well that lot are doing, its not surprising this sort of rock is taking off. I am sure this lot’ll go down great on the European festival circuit.

Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking or cutting edge. They even pull off a great version of Damned Yankees' “High Enough,” which has enough to make it better than just a straight cover. They follow it with one of the best tracks on here, “Love Me, Hate Me.” This is fun stuff done well, worth seeking for your top down fun.

Ereb Altor: The End

As someone who was on all kinds of painkillers after my colon cancer operation and complications, I think I understand what they are getting at. Described as epic Viking doom metal, it has that sense about it of a warrior nearing the end of his days. Its heavy but melodic and unremitting in its vast scope. While much of the doom genre is just bloody miserable, there is something inherently beautiful about this.

Spawned from the minds of Ragnor and Mats of the doom band Isole, this is second album from the duo. While there is a sense of bleakness about, it's more the wide open sea rather than some dank forest somewhere. This stuff is eminently listenable and pleasant to behold.

The title track is a three party epic that touches all the bases and then some. In some places this album shows where goth and doom meet. There are touches that sound a bit like HIM at their heaviest. Doesn’t matter what you call it, this is damn good heavy metal.

Delain: Lucidity

I reviewed this a while back and had some very good things to say about it.

I have been hearing quite good things about this lot: a female-led symphonic metal band, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. This is wonderfully competent metal with oodles of quality and class. I could listen to it all day. It never gets old. Lots of keyboards and strings twinned with some heavy power metal stylings, with delicate female vocals over the top. Soaring epics like "Shattered" are a pleasure to listen to. While the band sounds a bit like Within Temptation, there is an excuse, as the founding member is formerly of that band.

This release has five extra tracks, all but one acoustic versions of album tracks. They are proof, should it be needed, that the talent in this band is not all done with smoke, mirrors, and studio tricks. Oh, and if you are so moved there is a “making of” documentary included on the CD. I am glad; this release gave me another excuse to listen to this talented band.

Just when you thought the genre might have run out of ideas and quality, something like this comes along. If you like this sort of music and want more, then check out Delain; you won't be sorry. The extra tracks just make this release all the more inviting. A class act, start to finish, a group not to miss.

As always, stay heavy and safe.

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