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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

Jorn – Bring Heavy Rock to the Land (Album Review)

Jorn – Bring Heavy Rock to the Land
(2012, Frontiers Records)

1. My Road … 2:42
2. Bring Heavy Rock to the Land … 6:45
3. A Thousand Cuts … 8:03
4. Ride Like The Wind … 4:48
5. Chains Around You … 5:06
6. The World I See … 6:08
7. Time To Be King … 4:16
8. Ride to the Guns … 5:47
9. Black Morning … 4:20
10. I Came to Rock … 5:14
Bonus Track
11. Live and Let Fly … 4:15

Band:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Tore Moren – Guitar
Jimmy Iversen – Guitar
Nic Angileri -Bass
Willy Bendiksen – Drums

Producer: Jorn Lande

No one can ever fill Ronnie James Dio’s shoes but darn it if Jorn Lande isn’t at least making a respectable attempt! Jorn has one of the most powerful voices in rock these days and it’s obvious that his vocals and music have been inspired by Ronnie James (he did do an album of covers called Dio after all!). Just amazing stuff whether he’s singing with Tobias Sammet in Avantasia, Masterplan, covering Dio or performing his own solo material.

The song “Bring Heavy Rock to the Land” is just that… heavy rock. It’s a real old-school slowed down menacing rocker that sounds exactly like something of out the Dio playbook. Even the album’s bonus track “Live and Let Fly” sounds like something early Dio Sabbath would’ve done. “A Thousand Cuts” is my favorite track from the album. There’s some real heaviness going on here with a bit of a modern touch. Great riffing.

“Ride Like The Wind” caught me off guard. It sounded familiar to me then I realized it’s a cover of the Christopher Cross song! Of course, the song has been converted to “heavy rock” and it sounds wonderful and epic. It actually makes sense to make this song a heavy rocker when you consider the outlaw lyrics.

“Time To Be King” is another highlight. It’s actually Jorn covering himself. The song originally appeared on the Masterplan album of the same name. I prefer this take of the song over the Masterplan version. “Black Morning” is a great laid back number. I don’t know if it is a cover or not but it has a familiar vibe to it.

Getting back to the heavy rock theme… the whole album is rooted in classic hard rock – aka – “heavy rock”. Dio, Sabbath, Rainbow, Whitesnake… All of the elements are here and Jorn & Co. have brought it all together and made one fantastic album.

Bring Heavy Rock to the Land is a must-own album for all old-school hard rock fans. This is really a culmination of all of Jorn’s influences. One of 2012’s best albums.

Highlights: “Bring Heavy Rock to the Land”, “A Thousand Cuts”, “Ride Like The Wind”, “Chains Around You”, “The World I See”, “Time To Be King”, “Black Morning”

Buy the album at Amazon.com

The Metal Excess Awards: 2010 Edition

I’m really surprised by how many albums I enjoyed this year. I have a pitiful memory so I had to go back through my blog to remind myself what came out this year but I was floored when my Top 10 list was changed to a Top 20 list, then to a Top 30 list! I knocked it back down to a Top 25 list to make it seem a tiny bit more exclusive.

If you haven’t checked out any of these 25 albums, I wholeheartedly recommend you do so. 2010 was an amazing year for rock & metal, much MUCH better than 2009. I don’t see how 2011 can compete!

I’ll keep it short and sweet with my awards. As always, check the links for full reviews.

Best Albums of 2010

1. Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare
2. Buckcherry – All Night Long
3. Scorpions – Sting in the Tail
4. Halford – Made of Metal
5. Slash – s/t
6. Black Country Communion – s/t
7. Avantasia – Angel of Babylon
8. Avantasia – The Wicked Symphony
9. Accept – Blood of the Nations
10. Hinder – All American Nightmare
11. Jettblack – Get Your Hands Dirty
12. Reckless Love – s/t
13. Bad City – Welcome to the Wasteland
14. Stone Temple Pilots – s/t
15. Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier
16. Krokus – Hoodoo
17. Helloween – 7 Sinners
18. Sister Sin – True Sound of the Underground
19. My Darkest Days – s/t
20. Stereoside – s/t
21. Y&T – Facemelter
22. Danko Jones – Below The Belt
23. Grave Digger – The Clans Will Rise Again
24. Jon Oliva’s Pain – Festival
25. Ratt – Infestation

Top Cover Albums

Seems like every year a few established artists like to cover a few *other* established artists, not to mention all those various tribute albums that small labels will slap together. Well, here’s my official ranking of the three cover albums I bothered to listen to this year. Luckily, all three albums were good fun and I think they all deserve another mention.

1. Jorn – Dio
2. Vince Neil – Tattoos & Tequila
3. Joe Elliott’s Down ‘N’ Outz – My ReGeneration Vol. 1

Top Live Albums

Again, I don’t buy a lot of live albums, but here’s how I rank what I listened to this year.

1. Dio – Dio at Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987
2. Heaven & Hell – Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell – Live In Europe
3. Megadeth – Rust In Peace Live
4. The Michael Schenker Group – The 30th Anniversary Concert: Live in Tokyo

Top EPs

1. Razorwyre – Coming Out
2. Skull Fist – Heavier Than Metal
3. DesDemon – The Awakening

Most Disappointing Albums

1. Ratt – Infestation
The album was good, don’t get me wrong. It landed at #25 on my Best Of list for Dio’s sake! But… most of the songs had trouble living up to the promise of “Eat Me Up Alive” and “Best Of Me”.

2. Armored Saint – La Raza
A bland album from a band that has done so much better. They seemed to be going through the motions (to which John Bush has basically admitted in regards to himself). Symbol of Salvation this ain’t.

3. White Wizzard – Over The Top
The High Speed GTO EP garnered this group a lot of hype and buzz. We all fell for it, I know reviews for this album have been positive and it’s not bad but I expected more. Hopefully a second album will get these guys where they need to be.

4. Raven – Walk Through Fire
The terrible cover art should’ve tipped me off that this album was nothing special.

 

Check out these other sites for even more lists and year-end awards:

All Metal Resource — http://allmetalresource.com/

Bring Back Glam — http://bringbackglam.squarespace.com/

Hair Metal Mansion — http://hairbangersradio.ning.com/

Hard Rock Hideout — http://hardrockhideout.com/

Hard Rock Nights — http://hardrocknights.wordpress.com/

Heavy Metal Addiction —  http://heavymetaladdiction.com

Heavy Metal Time Machine — http://metalmark.blogspot.com/

Imagine Echoes — http://www.imagineechoes.com/

Layla’s Classic Rock — http://laylasclassicrock.blogspot.com/

The Metal Minute — http://rayvanhornjr.blogspot.com/

Metal Odyssey — http://metalodyssey.wordpress.com/

The Ripple Effect — http://www.ripplemusic.blogspot.com/

 

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

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