ALLEN / LANDE – The Great Divide

thumb_61_Allen-Lande-the-Great-Divide250If you’re a hard rock / metal fan who loves a great singer and has no clue who Russell Allen and / or Jorn Lande are, you have a helluva lot of catching up to do. Fast facts: Russel Allen is the lead singer for American progressive metal band Symphony X and has released eight albums with them since 1995, he has a side project called Adrenaline Mob that has released two albums and two E.P.’s, he has one solo album out, Atomic Soul from 2005, he’s been guesting on albums by Ayreon, Avantasia, Avalon and Re-Vamp to name a few. Jorn Lande on the other hand is a Norwegian that fronts his own band Jorn with whom he has released 10 studio albums plus a bunch of live and compilation releases, he has three albums out with Masterplan, a band he formed with two ex-Helloween guys, guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch, two albums with Ark, two with Millenium, guests on one Ayreon album, five Avantasia records and one with Brazen Abbot. He started his career with Vagabond, a band he put together with two ex-TNT members, Ronni LeTekro (guitar) and Morty Black (bass), in the mid 90’s. All this just to name some of what these gentlemen has done throughout their careers. Oh yes, I almost forgot, the couple has also made three albums under the Allen / Lande moniker, prior to this one. The first album was called The Battle and came out in 2005 and that record wasn’t anything more than a record written by Swedish guitar player Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear) for a project thought out by Italian record company Frontiers. But the album was both a critical and financial success and I hold it as the best album both Lande and Allen has ever recorded. That called for a follow-up, of course, but The Revenge from 2007 was not even close in quality and therefore my guess was that that album was the least we would hear from this project. But in 2010 Magnus Karlsson and Frontiers decided to give it one last go and release a third album, if nothing else to end this project with heads held high. The Showdown couldn’t match the debut, but it was far superior to its predecessor and all ended well. Or did it? Now, when we write 2014 in our calendars, the news that a fourth Allen/Lande album will be released reaches us, but this time, Magnus Karlsson wasn’t involved. Instead the song writing task went to Finnish guitarist / song writer Timo Tolkki, once with Finnish power metal band Stratovarius. In my book, that was not good news. I am not a power metal fan at all and my interest in Stratovarius is equal to zero. I don’t hate the band, but the little I have heard of them hasn’t infused any interest in them at all. Also, Tolkki’s solo albums and his recent metal opera in two parts, Avalon, has been tedious and inferior. To me, Avalon, is a light version of Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia at best. Still, all that didn’t subdue my interest to check out this album. I had a feeling that neither Jorn or Russell would put their voices over anything that didn’t had the sound and quality of the other Allen/Lande records, so my guess was that if Tolkki hadn’t come up with the goods, then there would never have been a fourth Allen/Lande record.

Opening track “Come And Dream With Me” blows every doubt of a failure to kingdom come. The song is a brilliant melodic hard rocker that could have been taken from their debut without any hesitation. Judging by this, Tolkki has done his research well. Second track “Down From The Mountain” takes a slight unexpected turn as it goes in a more modern metal direction, but the song is still very melodic and has all the hooks to get stuck. “In The Hands Of Time” gets back into the “right” direction again, “Solid Ground” is an awesome, heavy track, very melodic and a glistening melody. “Lady Of Winter” is one song here that I hold as a favourite. It’s an epic, progressive tune that sounds like a more catchy Savatage – a path they might want to explore more in the future. “Dream About Tomorrow” has some hit feel and is a really good melodic hard rock song, “Hymn To The Fallen” is a great heavy rock track that shows some traces of 70’s Rainbow and the title track is dark and heavy and I’m thinking Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath here – great stuff! The ending with the grand ballad “Bittersweet” is really good and atmospheric and if Symphony X was around in the 70’s, I can imagine they could have sounded something like this.

As a record, this is easily the best Allen/Lande album since the debut. Tolkki has really done his homework when it comes to writing songs for this project. In fact, this could might as well has been another Magnus Karlsson record sound wise, so for all fans of this project, no worries, this sounds exactly the way it’s supposed to. For lovers of great lead singers, this is a project made in heaven. As for a singer like Jorn Lande, he really comes alive best when someone other than himself takes care of the song writing. I’m not gonna sit here and say that Jorn’s solo work is bad, but unfortunately, his albums are all very forgettable – standard hard rock with its feet in the late 70’s and 80’s with some huge Dio, Tony Martin and Coverdale influences. Sounds really good, I know, but the songs doesn’t go anywhere at all. No, it’s when Lande takes on projects like this, Avantasia and Ayreon that he’s at its best. And let’s not forget the two first Masterplan records. Awesome! Russell Allen has Symphony X, a band that sure stand on its own and that gets better and better with each album, but I love the fact that he keeps getting on the Allen/Lande train anyway. Two great voices that really complements each other. Time to take this on the road soon, guys?

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

1. Come And Dream With Me
2. Down from The Mountain
3. In The Hands Of Time
4. Solid Ground
5. Lady Of Winter
6. Dream About Tomorrow
7. Hymn To The Fallen
8. The Great Divide
9. Reaching For The Stars
10. Bittersweet

 

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