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Is 'Eurovision metal' a thing? I think it is. Here is the proof. Gorgeously catchy melodies and energising, feel-good music are two of the predominant characteristics of 'Wine of Heaven', the sixth album from Italian metallers Mastercastle. I guess it's just mere coincidence that I started listening to this promo during the Eurovision week, but particular tracks, like 'Shine On Me', are on Eurovision overdrive... this one's title even sounds like a Eurovision entry!

Anyway, enough Eurovision talk... 'Wine of Heaven' is not a cheese-fest. Rather, this is a prime example of metal as sheer, unmitigated entertainment. Overflowing with Mediterranean passion, this power/trad/neo-classical beauty was, remarkably, conceived in the studio - apparently, in terms of composition and recording. No pre-production demos at all. The band's intention was "keeping intact the spontaneity"... in this, they have succeeded... and then some. Emotionally rich in its essence, I guess the spontaneity helped capture the raw and organic emotive qualities of each song, both in instrumentations and vocals. And, yet, it all sounds rather polished. However, one doesn't compromise the other; with 'Wine of Heaven', Mastercastle have struck a perfect balance between emotional expression and studio finesse.

There are some virtuosic performances to be heard here - notably, in the nifty fretboard widdlings and rhythm contortions of Pier Gonella's guitar work. Beyond some breathtaking shred (but, shred with feeling, I must add), he forges some truly succulent melodies in his modus operandi, and injects enough interesting quirks in his rhythm playing to give songs an original kick. And Giorgia Gueglio's vocal performance is equally fantastic. How many engagingly awesome melodies can one person throw onto one album? Tons, apparently... and all delivered through a smooth-toned passion that really is quite invigorating.

My only minor criticism is that, on an album clocking in at just over the forty minute mark, two of the nine songs on offer are covers. First, we have the instrumental number, 'Castle in the Sky', which is an inventive cover of a piece from Joe Hisaishi's soundtrack for the 80s animation movie of the same name. And then we have more of a carbon-copy cover with Mastercastle's emulation of Yngwie Malmsteen's 'Making Love', from the maestro's 1990 album, 'Eclipse'. To be honest, I was always a big fan of Göran Edman's singing on this album, so hearing Gueglio's vocals over the same instrumentation was a little jarring initially... and it doesn't quite work when she uses the low-end of her voice... BUT... she when she lets rip at the higher-end of her range, she soars, and the cover truly comes alive. As it does with Gonella's take on Malmsteen's solos. To be honest, with Gonella's abilities, I would've been more interested to hear what they could have done with the instrumental title track from 'Eclipse', but kudos to Masterclass for taking on a less obvious Malmsteen cover. Still, 'Making Love' makes for a great end to a fantastically enjoyable album. Impressive stuff. Not quite "douze pointe" for Italy here, but a solid eight and a half out of ten.
Scarlet Records
Review by Mark Holmes
19th May 2017
1) Drink of Me
2) Space of Variations
3) Wine of Heaven
4) Hot as Blood
5) Shine on Me
6) Black Tree's Heart
7) Enlightenment
8) Castle in the Sky
9) Making Love
"Is 'Eurovision metal' a thing? I think it is. Here is the proof."