Mastercastle - 'Wine Of Heaven'

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Mastercastle - 'Wine Of Heaven'

There's an upbeat liveliness throughout and much to entertain.

Mastercastle are an Italian Power/Neo-Classical Metal band proud of their musical values and "grandiose musicianship". 'Wine Of Heaven' is their sixth album, and one that, conceptually, is based on the idea that wine is our spirit and lifeblood (I know plenty of people who would testify to that).

The band was founded in 2008 by guitarist Pier Gonella (Necrodeath/ex-Labyrinth) and vocalist Giorgia Gueglio. The current line-up is completed by bassist Steve Vawamas and drummer Alessio Spallarossa (Sadist).

As it turns out, the music is far more subtle, varied and interesting than the past band names of the assorted members might lead the gentler souls among us to expect. It is surprisingly accessible and melodic and, indeed, one of the most enjoyable new "Metal" albums I've heard for some time.

The group claim to be pushing the boundaries of Power/Neo-Classical Metal, via the "innovative sounds" created by using low-tuned instruments and Progressive keyboards. They might bump up against them now and then, largely by virtue of softening the Traditional Metal sound and upping the melody quotient, but, to be honest I don't hear a lot of boundary pushing. That said, lovers of strong riffs, virtuoso guitar work and female vocals will not be disappointed.

The songs were composed and recorded directly in the studio, without pre-production, with the aim of capturing spontaneity, an approach that seems to have worked. 'Hot As Blood', for example, has a Michael Schenker-esque (early MSG) exuberance that has the band sounding 'Armed And Ready'.

Indeed, there's an upbeat liveliness throughout and much to entertain. 'Drink Of Me' works colourful keyboards around an abrasive, grating riff, and 'Enlightenment' sees Gonella combining another dirty riff with fluid soloing. 'Space Of Variations' features the album's most striking Classically-inspired solo against almost Poppy melodies, while the title track hints at Dio's 'Holy Diver' before foreboding downturned guitars take us into a head-shaking stomp. Elsewhere 'Shine On Me' is Melodic Rock for sure but stretches the notion of Metal, whereas 'Black Tree's Heart' is a power ballad featuring a pretty Gueglio vocal.

While you'd think we'd be on safe ground with a Yngwie Malmsteen cover, as well played as it is (Gonella, take a bow), 'Making Love' is less interesting than the band's original compositions. In contrast, their version of Joe Hisaishi's 'Castle In The Sky' is a Neo-Classical instrumental delight and another pleasant surprise.

Michael Anthony

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