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This single contains a rather uncanny sense of nostalgia for the active fan of the German power metal scene. The hype behind this band was nothing short of overwhelming at the time, and for the most part they lived up to it, with the exception of this particular release. The complaints about the band being an instant sellout are not without merit if one focuses solely on this single, as it pleases in the production department but doesn’t quite measure up in the originality department, something that would be drastically improved when the first LP followed it.
The biggest problem on here hits you right smack in the face in the first track, otherwise known as the single edit of “Enlighten Me”, a euphemism for the gutting of an otherwise good song. Even without listening to the full version you can tell there is something wrong when you hear the abrupt as hell re-entry of the vocals right after the solo. After hearing the full version, which is below the 5 minute mark and thus radio worthy by all standards; you will be further revolted by how a rather impressive solo has been hacked up into two brief lead fill-ins.
The accompanying music on here is pretty solid, although they don’t do much to alleviate the mainstream pandering tendencies of this release for most. “Kind Hearted Light” is a slightly heavier version of a catchy upper mid-tempo rocker from the Stratovarius model, enjoyable, but unfortunately leaving the listener with the impression that this band was formed to worship the sounds of other bands. The b-side track “Through thick and thin” is also catchy and a little less derivative, but not something that I would rate up with Roland Grapow’s master opuses from his Helloween days. The remake of “Black Dog” is the highlight of the single, featuring Jorn’s over-the-top vocal abilities and Roland’s superior guitar chops. It’s better than the original, Jan Eckert’s bass playing is heavy and raunchy, and the production has a solid punch that listens best at full volume.
Ironically I picked this single up on CD after buying everything else in their catalog, although I had downloaded it not long after its release in 2002. It was a bittersweet experience as both Helloween and Iron Savior lost a good deal of steam as the result of the exodus of their longtime members. Jan Eckert was as much an essential part of Iron Savior as Kai Hansen was, and the loss of them both still doesn’t fully sit well with me 5 years after the fact. This was further exacerbated when I saw the “Enlighten Me” video and took note of how similar Uli Kusch looked to Sugar Ray diva Mark McGrath with his hair cut. I can’t fully shelf this as a terrible release because the music on here is good, but unless you can’t find the remake of “Black Dog” for download, there isn’t really any reason to get it. Masterplan didn’t exactly put their best foot forward here, but pretty much everything that came after this is worthy of your attention if you love catchy power metal with a crisp production.
Sell-out, sell-out, sell-out… Yes, Masterplan, this German “super group” with members from Helloween, Gamma Ray and Iron Savior actually manage to make a sell-out of their first release. These big names have been given a big budget and AFM Records promotion – two elements which combined mostly leads to overproduced power metal. Enlighten Me is no different. Jorn’s vocals are powerful, if sometimes a little forced, and he has a great range. He sings most of the time with real passion – but occasionally he wails.
Guitars and keyboards are done flawlessly but without originality. Any new riffs? No. What about the keyboard intro to Kind Hearted Light? Well, it’s good I give you that but original? Ha! Complexity seems like another unknown abstraction for these guys. Listen to the title song and you’ll know how the chorus go before you’ve heard it. The songs are all catchy as hell; they are instant melodies. But memorable? Well, the only song which qualifies is Black Dog, originally performed by Led Zeppelin, which have been a little spiced up. Sadly, Jorn doesn’t put any effort into it. The vocals are pretty crappy.
All in all this isn’t bad. This isn’t bad music. I’m sure a lot of people will like it. On the other hand this isn’t good. You’d expect a lot more from these guys. Some integrity would be a nice start. Now we do just have one of the most commercial albums I’ve ever heard. It’s not strange that Masterplan became the most successful debut band in 2003.