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Allen / Lande – The Great Divide [Review]

PromoImageAllen / Lande – The Great Divide
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album

1. Come 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

Musicians:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Russell Allen – Vocals
Timo Tolkki – Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
Jami Huovinen – Drums

Producer: Timo Tolkki

I was late to the show on this one. The Great Divide was released in October 2014, but it took me until late January 2015 before I got around to listening to it. What a mistake to wait that long!

I’ve been familiar with Jorn Lande for years and I’ve been aware of Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen (mainly through his association with Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia) for awhile as well but I’d never listened to anything from their Allen/Lande project over the years. The Great Divide is their fourth album of coming together to share vocal duties.

Previous efforts featured current Primal Fear guitarist Magnus Karlsson as songwriter, producer and musician but The Great Divide finds former Stratovarious guitarist Timo Tolkki filling those roles. From what I have read, this release is a slight departure in sound from the three Karlsson releases. Notably, many other reviewers are stating the production is a notch below Karlsson’s and the vocal performances, while still spectacular, aren’t as “intense” as they were on the previous releases.

I have no qualms with the vocal performances of Jorde Lande (one of my favorites) or Russell Allen. I’m fine with the production as well. I guess the earlier Allen/Lande albums must have really set the bar high. That means I’ll have to check them all out at some point.

As it stands, The Great Divide is a fantastic slab of melodic hard rock & heavy metal. So many great tracks here. The music doesn’t sound too far off from what you might hear on a Jorn solo album, although I can’t help but hear bits of House of Lords when listening to this as well.

There’s not a dud track to be found but the album gets really, really good towards the end. It’s the last four tracks that truly shine. “The Great Divide” sounds like a melodic rocker from the 1980’s (but not in a “look at us, we’re being retro” kind of way) and “Bittersweet” is an amazing heavy metal power ballad. Just fantastic tracks.

I can’t speak on behalf of Russell Allen fans and fans of the previous Allen/Lande albums, but this is definitely a worthy pick-up for fans of Jorn Lande. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few more Allen/Lane albums to listen to!

Highlights: “In the Hands of Time”, “Solid Ground”, “Hymn to the Fallen”, “The Great Divide”, “Bittersweet”

Jorn – Traveller [Review]

JORN trav COVER

Jorn – Traveller
2013, Frontiers Records

1. Overload
2. Cancer Demon
3. Traveller
4. Window Maker
5. Make Your Engine Scream
6. Legend Man
7. Carry The Black
8. Rev On
9. Monsoon
10. The Man Who Was King

Band:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Trond Holter – Guitar
Jimmy Iversen – Guitar
Bernt Jansen – Bass
Willy Bendiksen – Drums

Produced by: Jorn Lande & Trond Holter

Another year, another Jorn release! You’d have to go all the way back to 2005 to see a year where Jorn didn’t release something. 

So what do you get when Wig Wam’s Trond Holter & Bernt Jansen join up with Jorn Lande? One great catchy metal album! Holter ended up co-writing most of the album with Jorn and, wow, with spectacular results! Jorn has always delivered wonderfully produced, powerful & melodic heavy metal (I suppose Jorn would call it “heavy rock” though) and the addition of Holter as a songwriting partner has only helped matters. It’s a bit surprising that Jorn would give us a new studio album just a year after Bring Heavy Rock to the Land but when you’re loaded with such a fantastic collection of songs, why not? I enjoyed the previous album but I can already tell you this album is much, much better from top to bottom.

Of course, what Jorn album would be complete without some type of tribute to Ronnie James? “The Man Who Was King” is another song Lande has written about Dio and I would imagine “Cancer Demon” probably is in reference to Ronnie’s battle with cancer. To be honest, while I enjoy these tributes and appreciate Jorn’s obvious love and respect for the man, I do think it’s time to move on to new territories. Lande does great covers, so I’m always up for him to throw one or two cover songs onto an album, I don’t want that to stop… but I think the time is right to start paying tribute to other rock ‘n’ roll heroes. At the rate Jorn is going, we could start putting together an anthology of Jorn’s Dio covers and songs written about Dio soon!

Regardless, this album is a monster of crunching riffs and Jorn’s amazingly powerful voice (which is worth the price of admission alone). “Overload” and “Rev On” would be my favorite tracks here. Traveller is definitely one of the year’s best releases. Not a dud track in the bunch. Jorn continues on with his very enjoyable blend of melodic metal and ’70s inspired heavy rock and that makes for one heck of an album!

Highlights: “Overload”, “Cancer Demon”, “Traveller”, “Window Man”, “Make Your Engine Scream”, “Carry The Black”, “Rev On”

http://www.jornlande.com/
http://www.facebook.com/OFFICIALJORN

Buy the album at Amazon.com!

Jorn – Symphonic [Review]

JORN Symph COVER

Jorn – Symphonic
2013, Frontiers Records

1. I Came To Rock
2. Rock And Roll Children
3. The World I See
4. Burn Your Flame
5. Man Of The Dark
6. My Road
7. Time To Be King
8. Black Morning
9. Like Stone In Water
10. Vision Eyes
11. War Of The World
12. Behind The Clown
13. A Thousand Cuts
14. The Mob Rules

Symphonic is a collection of Jorn’s songs, handpicked by Jorn Lande himself, that have been given a remix and orchestral makeover. Even dating back to when Metallica did it, adding orchestral arrangements on top of hard rock/heavy metal is a hit-or-miss affair. It’s hard to make a song work with an orchestra when they weren’t written with that in mind. Still, it can work depending on the song and as I mentioned, a number of these songs were actually remixed to better suit the orchestra element.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no expert when it comes to Jorn Lande or the various projects he’s been a part of. It’s only in the last few years I’ve begun to listen to his music but I do recognize some of the songs here like “A Thousand Cuts”, “Time To Be King”, “The World I See”, “Black Morning” and his Dio/Black Sabbath covers.

It’s no surprise that the more powerful numbers like “A Thousand Cuts”, “Time To Be King” and “The Mob Rules” are my favorite out of this bunch. There’s no tampering with those songs to make way for an orchestra. Get in where you can fit in. Mileage will vary on this album. I guess it really all comes down to ‘How much do you like symphonic rock?” Symphony isn’t a necessary release, there’s not one new song in the bunch, but it’s fine for what it is. It’s a satisfying placeholder until the next Jorn album comes along (which shouldn’t be long given this guy’s hectic schedule).

Highlights: “Rock And Roll Children”, “The World I See”, “My Road”, “Time To Be King”, “Black Morning”, “A Thousand Cuts”, “The Mob Rules”

http://www.facebook.com/OFFICIALJORN
http://www.jornlande.com/

Buy the album at Amazon.com

AVANTASIA – The Wicked Symphony & Angel of Babylon: Deluxe Edition

Avantasia – The Wicked Symphony & Angel of Babylon: Double Album Deluxe Edition [Import] (2010, Nuclear Blast Records)


Disc 1: The Wicked Symphony

1. “The Wicked Symphony” … 9:28
2. “Wastelands” … 4:44
3. “Scales of Justice” … 5:04
4. “Dying for an Angel” … 4:32
5. “Blizzard On a Broken Mirror” … 6:07
6. “Runaway Train” … 8:42
7. “Crestfallen” … 4:02
8. “Forever is a Long Time” … 5:05
9. “Black Wings” … 4:37
10. “States of Matter” … 3:57
11. “The Edge” … 4:12

Highlights: “The Wicked Symphony”, “Scales of Justice”, “Dying for an Angel”, “Blizzard On A Broken Mirror”, “Runaway Train”, “Crestfallen”


Disc 2: Angel of Babylon

1. “Stargazers” … 9:33
2. “Angel of Babylon” … 5:29
3. “Your Love is Evil” … 3:53
4. “Death is Just a Feeling” … 5:21
5. “Rat Race” … 4:07
6. “Down in the Dark” … 4:23
7. “Blowing Out the Flame” … 4:51
8. “Symphony of Life” … 4:30
9. “Alone I Remember” … 4:48
10. “Promised Land” … 4:47
11. “Journey to Arcadia” … 7:12

Highlights: “Stargazers”, “Death Is Just A Feeling”, “Rat Race”, “Blowing Out The Flame”, “Symphony Of Life”, “Alone I Remember”, “Promised Land”

Musicians:
Tobias Sammet – Lead Vocals, Bass
Russell Allen, Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske, Tim “Ripper” Owens, Klaus Meine, Andre Matos, Bob Catley, Ralf Zdiarstek, Jon Oliva, Cloudy Yang, Oliver Hartmann – Guest Vocals
Sascha Paeth, Bruce Kulick, Oliver Hartmann, Henjo Richter – Guitar
Miro Rodenberg – Keyboards, Orchestration
Sascha Paeth, Jens Johansson – Keyboards
Simon Oberrender – Organ
Felix Bohnke, Alex Holzwarth, Eric Singer – Drums

Producer: Sascha Paeth & Tobias Sammet

An epic collection featuring two epic albums! This deluxe edition collects both of Avantasia’s 2010 releases plus features a fairly lengthy booklet full of pictures and notes on the making of the albums. This time, instead of pure laziness, I actually had a good reason for not reviewing this set when I initially planned… it was just too much to absorb at once!

For some strange reason, unlike The Wicked Symphony, Angel of Babylon has not been released as a single disc in the United States although it is available as an import. I bought this collection on Amazon shortly after the street date because it turned out it was cheaper than having to order both albums separately because Angel of Babylon‘s import price was ridiculous at the time. This collection itself is actually an import (some of the text of my particular copy’s cellophane wrap was in Spanish) and it was retailing for $60-70 at most online shops when I first looked. YIKES!!! There are some very good deals to be found for it in Amazon’s Marketplace though, that’s how I got my copy and only paid$27 for it.

The very first thing I think of when I think of Avantasia are the amazing vocals that are always involved. Of course there’s Tobias Sammet, who is one of my favorite metal vocalists but Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske and Russell Allen shine on both albums just as they did on The Scarecrow. Jorn is featured on so many of these songs he might as well be considered a full-time member of Avantasia alongside Tobias. A Sammet/Lande album, anyone? And that’s not all! Klaus Meine, Tim “Ripper” Owens and Jon Oliva make appearances as well.

To this day I still have not heard the first two Avantasia albums. Some have complained that Tobias has taken the music in a slightly different direction, which is his prerogative since Avantasia is a side-project and a labor of love after all. Actually… Now that I think about it, if anything, I think Avantasia has become a bigger focus for Tobias than Edguy has been lately. Even so, the line has been blurred and both groups are becoming a bit interchangeable in sound. Not that I’m complaining, I like the direction both bands are headed in: great melodies, huge fantastic vocals, big drums, a bit of pop music, some ’80s hard rock, catchy choruses. Not many can do melodic power metal better than this.

I leaned towards The Wicked Symphony when I first bought this collection but after giving both albums many spins, I think I like Angel of Babylon better. There’s really no filler on that album at all. Either way, both are better than The Scarecrow (which I liked) and are two of 2010’s better albums!

JORN – Dio

Jorn – Dio (2010, Frontiers Records)

1. “Song for Ronnie James” … 8:08
2. “Invisible” … 5:23
3. “Shame on the Night” … 5:21
4. “Push” … 4:00
5. “Stand Up and Shout” … 3:23
6. “Don’t Talk to Strangers” … 4:55
7. “Lord of the Last Day” … 4:50
8. “Night People” … 4:24
9. “Sacred Heart” … 6:26
10. “Sunset Superman” … 4:56
11. “Lonely Is the Word / Letters from Earth” … 5:28
12. “Kill the King” … 4:03
13. Straight Through the Heart (live)” … 5:05

Band:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Tor Erik Myhre – Guitar
Jgor Gianola – Guitar
Tore Moren – Guitar
Nic Angileri – Bass
Willy Bendiksen – Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Tommy Hansen – Keyboards

Producer: Tommy Hansen

This album was quite a surprise that shocked the metal world for a short time. I believe it was only a week or two after Ronnie James Dio’s passing that a press release was sent out announcing Jorn Lande’s Dio tribute album would be arriving soon. Many people were confused and upset over this. Was Jorn exploiting the memory of Ronnie James? How would he have recorded this album so quickly? Well, soon the word got out that this album had been in the works since 2009 and it had the blessing of Ronnie and his wife Wendy. So all was good in the world again and the metal community then began to anxiously await Jorn’s take on some Dio classics.

The album features a few Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell and Rainbow tunes but it mostly focuses on the Dio band. 5 songs come Holy Diver and the next in line (not an intentional pun!) is Dream Evil, which is represented with 2 songs. I was pleasantly surprised by the track listing. Do we really need another cover of “Holy Diver”, “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll”, “Heaven and Hell” or “Rainbow in the Dark”? No. Instead, we get some less obvious, but still great, choices like “Push” (from 2000’s Magica album!), “Invisible”, “Lord of the Last Day”, “Sacred Heart” (maybe my favorite song from the Dio band) and “Sunset Superman”. I really would’ve liked to have heard something from the Killing the Dragon album as well, I think that’s one of Dio’s best albums.

If there are a few complaints I could make about the song choices, it’s that I would have liked to have heard Jorn cover some of Rainbow’s more epic songs like “Stargazer” or Dio’s “The Last In Line” (even “Stars” would’ve been fun). I guess those count as “obvious” covers but I really would have loved to hear Lande’s voice on those pieces. And what a voice! Though I’m not in love with much of Jorn’s original work, you can’t deny he has a fantastic voice. Had he been around in a previous era, he’d probably be considered one of the all-time great rock singers. In this day and age, if anyone can do Ronnie James Dio justice, it’s Jorn Lande. In fact, if Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler are interested in doing something other than a reunion with Ozzy, I would love for them to work with Jorn on some original material.

The songs are pretty straight-forward covers. There’s no experimentation being done here, which is fine. If you’re like me, you didn’t buy the album to hear them fool around with the songs. You bought it to hear Jorn’s voice and he doesn’t disappoint. Given the advances in technology since the originals came along, it’s also nice to hear re-recorded versions anyway. There is one original song: “Song For Ronnie James”. When I first heard it, I didn’t like it and thought it was very cheesy but it has grown on me.

If you’re a huge fan of either Ronnie or Jorn, I think this is an album you need to have in your collection.

Highlights: “Song For Ronnie James”, “Push”, “Stand Up and Shout”, “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, “Sacred Heart”, “Sunset Superman”

http://www.jornlande.com/
http://www.myspace.com/realjorn

MASTERPLAN – Time To Be King

Masterplan – Time To Be King (2010, AFM Records)

1. “Fiddle Of Time” … 4:20
2. “Blow Your Winds” … 3:19
3. “Far From The End Of The World” … 3:35
4. “Time To Be King” … 4:44
5. “Lonely Winds Of War” … 4:35
6. “The Dark Road” … 6:19
7. “The Sun Is In Your Hands” … 4:32
8. “The Black One” … 4:13
9. “Blue Europa” … 5:07
10. “Under The Moon” … 4:14

Band:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Roland Grapow – Guitar
Jan S. Eckert – Bass
Mike Terrana – Drums
Axel Mackenrott – Keyboards

Producer: Roland Grapow

I don’t follow the power metal scene all that closely so I don’t know much about Masterplan but I have been familiar with Jorn Lande thanks to his work with Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia projects and I’m aware he’s a pretty big deal in his own right amongst the progressive, melodica and power metal communities. He’s a truly gifted vocalist but I’ve never been enticed to try out any of his other projects just because I’m not a huge power metal fan. When the option to check out Masterplan’s Time To Be King came along, I first did a bit of research on the band and liked a few songs from their earlier releases so I figured I would give this a try.

I’ve listened to this album more than a few times but to be honest I’m having trouble finding enough words for fill a review for it. There are very few power metal bands that impress me. While there are some really good moments on this album, ultimately, Masterplan is not amongst that elite group that makes an impact on me. It’s certainly a competent album filled with talented musicians and Jorn Lande proves his worth once again as one of metal’s best active vocalists but I can’t help shake the feeling that this music has no soul (this coming from a guy that LOVES hair metal!).

Again, that’s just the way I feel about power metal in general so perhaps Masterplan never really had much of a chance with me in the first place and I’m not the best opinion to seek out. Is this “bad” music? No, but I don’t think anyone who isn’t already sold on melodic metal is going to be converted by this album.

Highlights: “Far From The End Of The World”, “Time To Be King”, “Lonely Winds Of War”, “The Dark Road”

http://www.master-plan.net/
http://www.myspace.com/masterplanmetal

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