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Allen-Lande - 'The Great Divide' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     November 24, 2014    
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Just as impressive as the earlier stuff to bear the marque.

In principle at least the idea seemed a simple, if somewhat ambitious one. Take an increasingly renowned guitarist/song-writer/producer (Magnus Karlsson – Last Tribe, Starbreaker and Primal Fear), put him and some of his best songs into the studio with a couple of world class vocalists – American powerhouse Russell Allen (Symphony X), and Jorn Lande (Masterplan, Ark, solo, etc.) and the resultant bitches brew should be pretty incendiary stuff, right? Well, err … yes would be the simple answer to that one!

Originally unleashed back in the summer of 2005, the A/L debut offering ‘The Battle’ was a stellar slab of Symphonic Hard Rock, its deft blend of dynamic light and shade, bombastic theatrical melodrama, clever vocal interplay and ambitious arrangements all highlights of one of the most memorable releases from that year. Two further releases have emerged under the A/L umbrella since then – the equally grandiose ‘The Revenge’ in 2007, and the noticeably moodier ‘The Showdown’ some three years later – both of which upheld and embellished the upper quartile quality of that first release.

A fourth instalment has been on the cards for some time now, but when it was announced that Karlsson wouldn’t be involved this time around (as to why, here isn’t really the place to speculate) and that former Stratovarius mastermind Timo Tolkki had assumed the reins, certain factions began to fear the worst. In part that’s perhaps understandable given Tolkki’s “issues” of recent years, but taking personalities out of the equation, his song-writing/production abilities have endured remarkably unscathed (bar the odd glitch) as far as I can tell.

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Obviously, picking up a project like this with its own pre-determined direction and associated fan expectations would be a challenge in itself, but whilst injecting elements of his own personality along the way, Tolkki seems to have done a remarkably good job of continuing and adding to the A/L legacy.

The title track itself ‘The Great Divide’ succinctly sums up the whole album for me; a smouldering epic (Symphonic Sabbath anyone?) characterised by a wonderfully melancholy arrangement and forthright vocals. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg really as the likes of bouncy opener ‘Come Dream With Me’, the kerosene fuelled Neo-Classical romp ‘In The Hands Of Time’, the soaring ‘Reaching For The Stars’ and the kaleidoscopic ‘Lady Of Winter’ all hit you straight between the eyes from the off.

Well written, produced and played – Tolkki provides some excellent guitar licks and solos for example – and with both vocalists firing on all six once again, this latest chapter in the ever intriguing Allen/Lande saga brings both freshness and stability.

Ignore the detractors and internet trolls; this is just as impressive as the earlier stuff to bear the marque.

Dave Cockett

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