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Sunday, October 19, 2014

CD-Review: Allen/Lande - "The Great Divide"

In 2005 Frontiers Records united Symphony X singer Russell Allen and ex-Masterplan fronter Jorn Lande for a project that should  become their most important effort on the Metal market: Allen/Lande. Under the leading hand of mastermind Magnus Karlsson they created with "The Battle" one of the best Melodic Metal albums in the last decade and two more strong records followed. Fans demanded a fourth album and they had to wait four long years. Finally "The Great Divide" hit the stores these days and it makes some things very different.

I was also one of those guys who couldn't get enough of this project because Jorn Lande and Russell Allen belong to the best singers we have in Metal right now - united they are an unstoppable team and with Magnus Karlssons songwriting skills every album was a winner. So when I heard that a new Allen/Lande album is on its way I was very happy - but this joy didn't last long, because it was announced that Magnus Karlsson won't be the man behind the project anymore. Instead of him none other than ex-Stratovarius member Timo Tolkki should take care of songwriting, guitars and production this time. Yes, Timo Tolkki - the one who presented us with the latest Avalon record one of the worst sounding and most uninspired Metal records this year. First I thought this is a bad joke and also the echo of the fans wasn't that good.

But I can reassure you: "The Great Divide" isn't such a disaster like "Angels Of The Apocalypse" No, it's even far away from being a disaster. It feels like Timo Tolkki saved his best songs for Allen/Lande and put all the crappy stuff on his Avalon project. Otherwise I can't explain this qualitative leap. For sure the album can't reach the fantastic "The Battle", but also the two other records couldn't stand against the debut.

When you listen to "The Great Divide" you hear Timo Tolkkis influence immediately. All songs bear his signature and very often this album sounds to me like Stratovarius 2.0. This is something you need to know - it is not so similar to Magnus Karlssons style. Maybe this annoys some fans, but if you give this album a chance you'll discover some of the best songs this project has ever produced. You need an example? Then listen to the opener "Come Dream With Me", which is the perfect start for this album: very melodic, heavy and refined with outstanding vocal performances by Jorn and Russell. Yeah I think with these two guys on the microphone nothing can go wrong and even a more average song like "Reaching For The Stars" is worth listening to, because of this unbelievable power they have in their voices.

"Down From The Mountain" and "Lady Of Winter" continue the way of very well-crafted Melodic Metal. In general the first half of the record is awesome. Sadly the second half sounds somewhat arbitrary. Here the songwriting is still solid, but the great hooks remain on track, but like I said the vocal performances relativize it, so you can still listen to those songs without getting bored. What I miss on this album is a bit more soul. The first three records had an emotional impact on me and "The Great Divide" sounds like commissioned work at times and focuses on a more heavy sound in my opinion.

If we take a closer look at the production I'm also surprised: the overall sound is very solid and I can't understand how Timo Tolkki could make such a bad production on Avalon when I listen to his work on Allen/Lande. The presentation is powerful and underlines the Metal aspect. Of course it can't keep up with such superb sounding albums like the latest Dynazty or Shakra, but it is really enjoyable.

To come to an end: Timo Tolkki surprised me in a very positive way with his work behind "The Great Divide". The songs are good, the production solid as well as the guitar work - yeah, and then you have two of the best Metal singers on earth together on one album again. "The Great Divide" marks the beginnig of a new Allen/Lande trilogy and I really hope that the following records hold the quality "The Great Divide" has to offer. For fans of the two singers and all Melodic Metal fans in general this is a recommended purchase.



01. Come Dream With Me *
02. Down From The Mountain *
03. In The Hands Of Time
04. Solid Ground
05. Lady Of Winter *
06. Dream About Tomorrow *
07. The Hymn To The Fallen
08. The Great Divide
09. Reaching For The Stars
10. BitterSweet

* best tracks

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