Allen/Lande – The Great Divide
Release Date: October 21, 2014
For those power and heavy metal fans that aren’t as deep into the genre as some of us are, in 2005, a super group of sorts started up featuring two of the most talented and well-known vocalists of our time. This super group, aptly named Allen/Lande, features Russell Allen from Symphony X and Adrenaline Mob, and Jorn Lande from Masterplan, as well as his solo project, Jorn. Rightfully so, Jorn Lande has a rap sheet a mile long, and while I’d love to go door to door asking “Do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior, Jorn Lande?” we will leave out the dozens of bands that he has worked with in one form or another.
The super group just released their fourth full length album, The Great Divide, which features the first appearance of songwriter and producer Timo Tolkki for this group. Tolkki is also a well-known name in the business, best known for his work in Stratovarius and his super group of sorts, Avalon. As if I haven’t convoluted this enough with power metal name drops, originally, the band’s songwriter and producer was Magnus Karlsson of Primal Fear and Kiske/Somerville (just to name a couple). While the group’s debut album, The Battle, was strong and full of catchy melodies and wonderfully arranged music, a lot of the fans would agree the next two records just weren’t quite as strong. Enter The Great Divide, promising to both surprise the doubters and please fans around the world with great songwriting, and strong melodies.
I will admit that when I first heard of the announcement of a new Allen/Lande album, I was excited to hear new material from my favorite front men, but also nervous as I am not a fan of the work Timo Tolkki has done after Stratovarius. I didn’t give up hope, and I am quite happy that I didn’t. At first listen, I knew I was going to be as hooked to this record as I am to their debut. “Come Dream With Me” opens the album up with a joyful, moving guitar melody that transitions beautifully into the echoing vocal verses of Jorn and Russell which send chills down my spine. These two legends have some striking differences in their vocals, as Russell has a bit more of a stark, rough opening and closing to his voice, but they blend together unbelievably well.
Picking up the pace immediately after is, “Down From the Mountain” which showcases the more metal side of the group, featuring great driving drums provided by Jami Huovinen (Ring of Fire). The riffs are strong in this one, and the track is completed by a short but sweet, perfectly clean guitar solo. “Dream About Tomorrow” is another driving force to be reckoned with that starts out in this huge sound that diminishes back into clean guitar chords and simple, rock n’ roll drums. The vocals from both are so hard-hitting and soaring, but they give off a near haunting sound until the chorus explodes in.
Returning the album back to more riff-focused metal, “Hymn to the Fallen” follows immediately with my favorite guitar work on the record. It’s dark and dirty, and the vibe easily separates this song from the rest of the record. What I expected to be a slow ballad-like tune, completely surprised me as one of the heaviest and unforgettable on the album. “Bittersweet” closes the album off on a slower, more somber note, as it is a farewell to a bad relationship. The track features moving piano and keyboard, but has some of the most emotional and strongest lyrics on the release. My favorite songs from Jorn and Allen’s other bands are the slower, more serious songs (Masterplan’s “When Love Comes Close” and Symphony X’s “Paradise Lost” respectively) both feature this side of the vocalists, and I just can’t get enough of them. This track is no exception!
One of my favorite things about The Great Divide is how straightforward it is. It isn’t convoluted by layers and layers of vocals, overdone keyboard effects, spastic guitar solos, or various other things often deemed to make something “power metal”. Instead, it showcases two amazing vocalists, a veteran songwriter/guitarist/bassist/everything, and balanced drumming in such a way that every listen is enjoyable and far from repetitive. All in all, this record has a lot of the same elements that I loved from The Battle, but executed with more creativity and intricate musicianship. For anyone out there that tries to say that rock n’ roll is dead, they need to be force-fed this record, as this is some of the most solid and well put together music I have heard from these musicians in a long while. If you had your doubts after the previous releases, please reconsider and check this album out!