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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”

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!

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