By N. Lynn
Shortly after the release of The Phoenix, Mastercastle started writing what would become Last Desire, working on three songs first before securing a deal with Lion Music for their sophomore release and commencing with recording sessions later in the year. This album sees the line-up of Giorgia Gueglio (vocals), Pier Gonella (guitars), Steve Vawamas (bass) and Alessandro “Bix” Bissa (drums) all returning to pick up where they left off with their debut.
As the album’s promotional material states, the neo-classical elements are toned down a bit to focus on the rest of the music, allowing the band to work in unison more during the songs, making this a slightly more accessible album on the surface. The end result is a more straightforward melodic or power metal affair with a hard rock edge to a few of the songs. Gonella still gets his shred on in some of the songs and manages to bring out some other influences at times, adding depth to his already impressive guitar skills on display. While he gets most of the musical workload, Vawamas and Bissa also have their moments, still leaving room for Gonella and Gueglio to work their magic together.
Like its predecessor, Last Desire doesn’t sound like a guitarist’s album with some vocals added to it as an afterthought. Maybe it’s a matter of working with the same people again, but Gueglio’s singing on Last Desire is a noticeable improvement over their debut album, although she performed quite well then as well. As on the first album, some of her vocals are delivered with an accent, but unlike “Greed Blade” from the first album, there aren’t any songs where the accent becomes stronger. The lyrics themselves also seem more coherent, although some awkward phrases can still be found in a few of the songs. It’s not cringe worthy broken English, so it’s easy enough to forget about such things after hearing the lines the first couple times. Gueglio completes the package with some layered and backing vocals to help give the songs a little bit extra.
The songs explore the different meanings desire can have, turning this album into a themed album of sorts. The connection might not be as obvious in some of the songs, such as in album opener “Event Horizon” or the following track “Misr” (the Romanized version of Egypt’s Arabic name), but if you follow along with the lyrics and think about it some, it works. The album is enjoyable enough on its own, so trying figure out how each song fits in with desire isn’t really necessary.
There are also two instrumentals, but we don’t get the first of them until the sixth song, which I think works better than having it closer to the beginning. “Space Trip” lets Gonella unleash some excellent riffs and soloing without having to back off and let Gueglio in. Later on in the album we have “La Serenissima”, a cover of a song originally by Italian ensemble group Rondó Veneziano. From the early 1980s, it is one of their better known songs, if not at the top of the list. This guitar rendition works out surprisingly well and is clearly a highlight of the album and upstages the first instrumental with little effort.
The only real weak link I found on the album was in the ballad “Jade Star”. It’s not a terrible song, but I couldn’t really get into it and after several listens I started skipping past this one. The rest of the songs are all worthy of repeated listens, especially the aforementioned “La Serenissima”, “Misr”, album closer “Scarlett” (which is inspired by “Gone With The Wind”) and the title track.
Last Desire is an example of a band improving upon what they established with their debut offering. It seems to be to be a bit heavier overall by comparison, but it’s not much of a departure from what the band did with The Phoenix, so most fans shouldn’t have a problem with this new album. With fewer neo-classical portions and improvement in the vocals, Mastercastle have delivered a solid follow-up that should turn some heads.