• Allen-Lande - The Great Divide (2014) - Laid back melodic rock majesty by Timo Tolkki - 82% (26/10/14)

    Allen-Lande - The Great Divide (2014)

    Many fans were worried when they got to know that the project involving Symphony X and Adrenaline Mob singer Russell Allen as well as vocalist Jorn Lande from Avantasia and Masterplan fame among others would see an important line-up change four years after the third and last release. Previous song writer, bassist, guitarist and keyboardist Magnus Karlsson who is also known for his work in Primal Fear was in fact replaced by Timo Tolkki, one of the most iconic but also most inconsistent musicians of the European power metal scene who is known for his works with Stratovarius and Timo Tolkki’s Avalon among others. Since Timo Tolkki had left Stratovarius, he had released a whole lot of controversially discussed and mostly negatively received releases under his own solo banner, during the Revolution Renaissance era, within the short-lived Symfonia project, as mastermind of the metal opera project Timo Tolkki’s Avalon and recently as bassist in the progressive all-star band Ring of Fire. I have always followed Timo Tolkki’s career with much interest because he wrote not only some of the worst disasterpieces of its genre (“Angels of the Apocalypse” and “Elements, Part I”) but some of the very best European power metal albums ever recorded (“Dreamspace” and “Visions”). I’m relieved to tell you that the new Allen/Lande release “The Great Divide” is one of Timo Tolkki’s very best releases. It even beats the solid “The Land of New Hope” as well as “In Paradisum” and may be Timo Tolkki’s best album since Stratovarius’ “Infinite”. In addition to this, this release is also a career highlight for both vocalists and especially Jorn Lande who had released exchangeable quantity instead of convincing quality material over the past few years.

    “The Great Divide” is a surprisingly calm album and almost all tracks on here are mid-tempo songs at best. Another surprise is that Timo Tolkki’s didn’t include any of his fast-paced signature guitar soli that always remember me of gobbling turkeys. His soloing is slower and therefore more epic and progressive. The overall atmosphere of the album is rather epic, intellectual and progressive. The instrumental section plays in a soft but precise way and is really helpful to the overall atmosphere. The guitar work varies from simple melodic riffs to beautiful melodic mid-tempo soli. The keyboard is probably the most outstanding instrument on the album. It’s always present and still not overused. The record always comes around with dreamy classical and modern orchestrations or melancholic piano melodies at the right moments. Massive background vocals and powerful choruses in almost all songs make both singers stand out. Sometimes it’s still hard to decipher the two singers for me but their performances are generally more distinctive than in the past and they perform very well apart of this.

    The catchiest power metal songs on here are first of all definitely the melodic and powerful opener “Come and Dream With Me” that comes around with amazing guitar melodies that will be stuck on your mind for a very long time from first contact on. “Dream About Tomorrow” is the only up-tempo track with heavier riffs and an incredible vocal performance by Jorn Lande that sends shivers down my spine. The song is completed with sophisticated organ sounds and a liberating guitar solo. Every fan of European power metal should worship this song. It’s definitely among the very best genre tracks released this year and pretty much tied with HammerFall’s “Hector’s Hymn”, Edguy’s “Sabre & Torch” and Lord Symphony’s “Mirror”.

    Many songs on the album like “Hymn to the Fallen” and “Reaching for the Stars” have a melodic AOR touch. They really breathe the spirit of laid-back hard rock music of the eighties from bands like Dokken, Journey or Whitesnake. Even the infamous “Stronger Than Ever” release by Digger which I happened to like a lot comes to my mind when I listen to this album.

    One of the best songs on here is the atmospheric and epic title track “The Great Divide”. Despite being the slowest song on an already rather slow-paced release, this track fascinates with the mixture of soothing vocals from both singers and inspired dreamy guitar melodies. It’s probably the most courageous and progressive song ever released by the project but this is still music with force and soul.

    Fans of Russell Allen, Jorn Lande or Timo Tolkki can’t get around this release. Those who love melodic progressive power metal should also give this album a few spins and let it grow before judging it too quickly. If you like AOR or epic melodic rock from the eighties you might even like this release more. In a weird way, this album features several trademarks from the former bands of the involved musicians and still sounds different from any other genre release this year due to its positively sophisticated and intellectual approach. In the end, it all comes down to personal tastes and if you prefer calm, epic and progressive sounds as on this record over more traditional European power metal as on the three predecessors. For me, the combination Allen, Lande and Tolkki works extremely well and I don’t miss Magnus Karlsson’s input at all but it may be a very different thing for somebody else. Make up your mind about this record, give it several spins and purchase it if you like it enough.

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