It’s no secret that Silent Knight are one of my favorite new power metal bands of the last decade or so. Hailing from the remote locale of Perth, Australia, Silent Knight won me over immediately with their high-octane, guitar-driven take on the speedy, galloping power metal genre along the lines of Iced Earth meets Gamma Ray, with just a touch of that Manowar chest-beating swagger. Their second album, Conquer & Command, was the finest power metal album of 2015 in my book, bar none, and the bookending EPs, Power Metal Supreme and The Angel Reborn, are both highly recommended to genre fans. Until recently, the one chink in Silent Knight’s armor was their debut album, Masterplan, from 2013. Now, please don’t misunderstand: I definitely enjoyed the Masterplan album, which features some truly outstanding songs. But the band’s inexperience shone through in areas like the flat production, the acquired-taste vocals, and the undeniably dodgy cover art. The project overall suffered from an overarching, nagging, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time vibe that simply could not be ignored.
Fast-forward to the present day, and Silent Knight have grown by leaps and bounds. Their core sound and style have thankfully remained intact, but they’ve learned how to maximize their results in the studio, have added the talented Jesse Onur Oz on vocals, and have figured out a hack for obtaining killer cover artwork despite limited financial resources. The conundrum, of course, is what to do with Masterplan. The material is great, but the original recordings, performances and packaging are much more closely aligned with Silent Knight’s humble beginnings than the fearsome power metal juggernaut they have since become. Placed side by side next to Conquer & Command, Masterplan does not fall short in the songwriting department, but it really doesn’t measure up to its successor on any other metric. To solve this dilemma and finally bring Masterplan up to snuff, the band decided to bite the bullet, re-record the album in its entirety, and release it with brand-new cover art. The result, entitled The Masterplan (note the article “the” to distinguish the new version from the old), has been released digitally this week via major digital outlets, with a physical CD release (packaged together with Conquer & Command in a special 2CD pack) due later this month.
I’m thrilled to report that this new edition unlocks the full potential of the fantastic songs on Masterplan. Glorious, high-velocity power metal gems like “The Curse of the Black Rose,” “Evil is Thy Name,” and “Silent Apparitions (in the Night)” have lost none of their original magic, but gained so much in power and impact, through the updated treatment here. The same is true of more epic fare like “Pay Your Dues” and “Dare to Dream.” The guitars, neutered and muffled on the original versions, now slice and dice with deadly precision. The once-muddy rhythm section now thunders away with newfound clarity and might. The vocals, which were previously done by a singer who had loads of heart but not quite the skill or range to pull off the requisite power metal histrionics, have improved considerably thanks to Oz’s spellbinding performance. With its sparkling new sound job and spiffy new cover painting, The Masterplan can more than hold its own against the latest releases of genre leaders who enjoy Nuclear Blast-type resources. After this, no longer will I hear a tune like “Masterplan” or the aforementioned “Silent Apparitions (in the Night)” and hang my head wistfully at what might have been had Silent Knight had a killer vocalist and massive production. Now we know. The promise has been fulfilled.
This is an exciting time for Silent Knight for another reason. At the end of July 2017, they will fly to Germany for their European live debut, a string of four shows that will include an appearance at the prestigious Headbangers Open Air festival. Your humble scribe will be in attendance, so keep your eyes peeled for a full report on True Metal Lives in the first part of August. For now, though, make sure to check out The Masterplan. Whether you’re familiar with the original versions or not, it’s an extremely worthwhile release for fans of the more aggressive, riff-centric, largely keyboard-free, uptempo end of the power metal spectrum.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~