Rauhala and Juutinen formed this Tampere-based band in 2002 with keyboardist Mikko Viheriälä and bassist Arto Tissari (later in Korpiklaani) in the line-up. Singer Jari Tiura – later of MSG - joined the band in 2003. The group featured several Crystalic members, a band that split up only to reform later. In this period, the band released three demos before an independent 2004 video called Masterstroke Live at YO. Apocalypse was issued in 2006 and given a bonus track for Japan. The original label had backed out. The band next signed to the bigger Dynamic Arts Records. The group opened for Jon Oliva’s Pain in Europe in 2008.
MASTERSTROKE - SLEEP - DYNAMIC ARTS
Masterstroke is a Finnish power metal band, which likely means all metal bands just stopped reading. Rightfully so for Finland and metal are like America and Freedom: they are often connected to one another but in truth bear little relationship or connection. Masterstroke is hardly different in that a mister Jussi Kulomaa plays keyboards full-time in the group. Too bad honestly for Masterstroke has several things going for it. The band plays a very non-linear and complex brand of music that is loaded with layers of riffs and composition. Masterstroke is not a band that takes a shortcut writing songs or relies on organic simplicity. Sleep is a riffing monster. The keyboards water down anything and everything, but nods have to got o the guitars and the solos, which amazingly are played with variety and in different sounds. The power/thrashing is peppered with different tones. The highest compliment, however, should be reserved for the vocals of Niko Rauhala whose pipes blow the listener away. He plays the second guitar as well, which should make for an interesting observation in the live arena. His delivery on The Circle or Final Journey, for instance, is just impeccable. Msterstroke has a world-class vocal because of him.
Sleep is hardly that what with its dynamics and power. It is just sad to see how the band throws it all away only to gain some klang klang here and there. Finns are simply clueless in metal -some of these lyrics however show some intelligence.
Masterstroke is a heavier, harder and faster version of Kamelot and Stratovarius. The band’s compositions stand up to anything those aforementioned bands have conjured. Masterstroke could have been great, but is one keyboardist long on that dream. - Ali “The Metallian”
MASTERSTROKE - AS DAYS GROW DARKER - DYNAMIC ARTS
“Gone are the power metal influences -welcomed are the atmospheric parts similar to Evergrey, Nevermore” is the key part of the band’s bio. There is the good in that Nevermore is mentioned but to declare clearly and openly that one is abandoning a style is risky and to do it in reality perhaps fatal. The vocals of Niko Rauhala continue to aid the band. The keyboards are not too prominent. Some songs and the sound do indeed remind of Nevermore but melodic heavy metal, as it is described, has its limits if competing with the likes of Evergrey, Kamelot and others. Musicianship is not the problem here but originality and variety is rarely heard. As evidence, one can look at the structure and pattern of songs. Starting a song faster and heavier before plunging it into near ballad like pace is too often repeated on As Days Grow Darker, the result is not too pleasing. Purity Fades and Stillborn are just two examples of this overused tactic. The end result is at best a more melodic version of Nevermore. - Anna Tergel