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I can't decide if it's sad or funny yet. - 6%

Empyreal, August 1st, 2013

Masterplan’s last album Time to Be King was just bland as all hell, but give them credit, they DID try to one up themselves with Novum Initium...nothing they've done in the past has ever made me want to stop listening to metal as much as this album did.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more ludicrously patched together, try-hard attempt at every single post-2000s melodic metal cliché. They hit every fucking box. First they got the Latin album title, got to have that. Yeah, did you search Wikipedia for a whole two minutes for that one, guys? Not to mention Novum Initium hits yet another cliché without even getting to the actual music yet…truly an amazing feat. I’m talking about the usual cash-in power metal crap where a band writes lyrics about starting over with a clean slate, doing something fresh, etc. even when it’s clear they’re just regurgitating the innards of a bunch of Hallmark college graduation cards. I think they should start mining the funeral and hospital-visit ones instead; might get some more fitting metaphors for the brain-dead music that way.

The music is even more ridiculous, I mean honestly. They hit every fucking box, yet again – we got Hammond organs, we got poppy keyboards, we got faux “heavy” tracks, we got faux “epic” tracks…hell, they even throw in a short Middle Eastern sounding bit; there isn’t a cliché they missed. If they could work these ideas into catchy, memorable songs it would be less offensive, but the performances are limp and phoned-in, saved only by the crystal clear production, and Rick Altzi’s vocals sound like he smoked a pack of Marlboros before every recording session. There’s another cliché, got to have “gritty” vocals or else people will think the music is gay. The melodies are about as good as your average butt-clenching alt-rock song in the background of the latest Happy Madison movie. The music, while well played, is utterly rote and bereft of ideas.

Opener “The Game” is pretty symptomatic of the whole album – pristine production backing utterly retarded songwriting. They throw everything in…to make up for the weak chorus, they try some Gus G-esque guitar acrobatics, some Hammond organs, it’s a mess. The general theme on here is to introduce a quasi-progressive element, such as the different-sounding keyboards (they used those in the 70s, so it must be good!) but fails to actually do anything. They throw in a part that could sound fresh if the songwriting was any good, but then just scrap it afterwards and go back to the very dull poppy chorus.

Just having a different-sounding part for a few seconds per song doesn't count as 'making your own style,' guys. As much as I'd like to believe there was a sincere bone in this album's body, I just keep coming back to one undeniable fact: if they really meant any of this, if they really wanted to "branch out" and use some of these ideas (Hammond organs, Middle Eastern bits, pop keyboards), they'd go all the way with it and incorporate it more fully into the song, using those ideas to create a catchy motif or an atmosphere. That way, it wouldn't come off like a cliché - it would be a songwriting choice. But the way it's done here, where they just shoehorn a different trendy-sounding keyboard bit into the bridge of a song for five seconds per song, is just about the worst kind of commercial "metal" garbage possible. They just throw everything and the kitchen sink into random songs trying to come off as different or artsy, something other than the bland poppy garbage that really lies underneath it all.

The album just keeps going with every lame thing in the book that you’ve heard done a billion fucking times over. “Betrayal” has some heavy riffs that I’m pretty sure they were contractually obligated to write. The aforementioned brief Middle Eastern melody is featured in this song, and I am really suffocating from the stench of how hard this is pandering to what was popular in metal 10 years ago with underground bands on Limb Music. News flash guys, that shit doesn't fly anymore. You need better gimmicks to impress people now. “Return from Avalon” is the cliché happy power metal song, played joylessly, mechanically ticking off the components as if it were coming straight off a conveyor belt. Particular points of horror include the wretched dramatic attempt “No Escape” (never seen THAT song title before, you geniuses!) and the near-unlistenable keyboard-crapola of “Keep the Dream Alive,” which has probably one of the worst choruses you’ll hear on a melodic metal album in 2013. Did “Pray on My Soul” just use the lyric “I won’t call your name no more”? Seriously? Seriously?

It’s just so utterly thoughtless. There’s nothing here you haven’t heard a million times before. It’s not that they’re using clichés and familiar tropes, it’s that they’re using all of them. This is a band whose identity is formed around one ideology, which is to not have an ideology. This is pretty much the nadir of the worst trends in power metal today, as this is full of commercial-pandering garbage masquerading as something metal, and the band’s attempts to hide their obvious love affair for flat-out pop music just make this worse. I’d rather they just go ahead and play the pop-rock they have always wanted to play deep down, I’m sure it would be far more enjoyable than this album. I don’t even mean that as an insult – they’d be better at it, seriously.

But power metal fans are generally a crowd that doesn’t like that kind of music, and so we’ll continue to get artistically bereft jokes like this. So many power metal fans just eat this kind of thing up and refuse to call it on its bullshit – this kind of plastic, pre-processed junk-food metal that plays up all the poppy, listenable choruses people love to hear, but oh, there’s heavy guitars and a solo or two, plus some ethnic-sounding keyboards for five seconds. Must be metal. Now we can feel good about liking it.

No. I do not fall in with that kind of thinking. To me, if you think this kind of stuff is OK, you are part of the problem. Just leave this crap in the back of the indie record store to collect dust. Trust me, you'll be better off.