We can all remember when female fronted bands were the band du jour for record companies. A lot of the bands were record label copy cats essentially. Like the hair metal scene of the late 80’s early 90’s there were a lot of strong bands that were caught up in a wave of weak but more marketable bands. Within both sub genres though there is some really good bands producing very strong music.
Italy’s MasterCastle are indeed fronted by Giorgia Gueglio but haven’t gone straight for ballad soaked goth anthems like so many counterparts. Her strong voice is complemented by guitarist Pier Gonella’s virtuoso guitar playing perfectly. Their 5th album Enfer (De la Bibliotheque National) is to my ears their strongest to date. A superb mix of slower but heavy crowd pleasers and faster more intense numbers. Far from falling into the trap of becoming a second rate Nightwish or Tristania, Mastercastle have no psuedo operatic vocals just a stronger power metal sound. Almost like a cross between Stratovarius and Malmsteen with female vocals. Opening with ‘The Castle’ is a perfect set opener and awakens the senses to that this album isn’t a paint by numbers affair. The production is crisp without being clinical. The song writing throughout the album is superb and does not risk being formulaic at any point. One thing that becomes apparent to me is that Giorgia’s vocals are stronger on the faster tracks. Her delivery has a spark that doesn’t always come across on the slower numbers like ‘Straight to the Bone’. The rythym section of bassist Steve Vawamas and drummer Francesco la Rosa are truly gifted. They are strong players and ncver resort to playing the same parts which helps the album seem fresh with every listen. They also know how to hold back when needs be to give the songs that need it the right feel. To often drummers try to push the beat when it’s not suitable for the song! Power metal can often to over blown to the stage where it becomes brainless noodling for the sake of it. Not with Mastercastle. Measured and controlled with occasional flamboyance. There is always something to keep your attention on ‘Enfer’ and every track is kept short, sweet and easy to put on repeat.