CD Review: Allen/Lande – The Great Divide

CD Review: Allen/Lande – The Great Divide
Frontiers Music srl
All Access Rating: B+

Allen/Lande - The Great Divide 2014
The name on the marquee says Allen/Lande, but what about Timo Tolkki? How about making some room for the former Stratovarius songwriter, guitarist and producer, too?

For The Great Divide, their fourth album together, Russell Allen and Jorn Lande – two of the most powerful metal vocalists in captivity – relied on Tolkki's musical vision to shepherd this project to its logical conclusion, after having worked with the likes of Primal Fear's Magnus Karlsson and Pink Cream 69's Dennis Ward on earlier efforts.

In his capable hands, Tolkki, who assumed the songwriting and production responsibilities, has shaped The Great Divide into an album of dramatic, high-flying power metal delivered with urgency and a sharp focus, where the choruses are generous, the hooks are screwed in tight, the guitar solos from Tolkki are transcendent and the melodies are heavenly and memorable. Tolkki, by the way, also handles bass and keyboards on The Great Divide.

Electricity races through "Down From the Mountain," as riffs strike like a series of dangerous lightning bolts, and "Solid Ground," with its silvery, expansive synthesizers, is purposeful and determined. In the end, however, it's the heavy, surging dynamics of an epic "Lady in Winter," where Allen seems possessed by the spirit of Ronnie James Dio, and "The Hymn to the Fallen" – Lande's rasp recalling David Coverdale at the height of Whitesnake's popularity – that win the day, even as heady pop-metal rush of "Reaching For the Stars" simply takes your breath away.

While some of the arrangements are less than imaginative – "Come Dream With Me" being a prime example – The Great Divide is a well-orchestrated and powerfully uplifting record, with just a hint of mystery, some beautifully designed intros and a variety of vocal stylings. Here, the leather-lunged Allen, singer for the progressive-metal behemoths Symphony X, and the expressive Lande, front man for German power-metal heroes Masterplan, test their impressive range, willing it to great heights, although at times, they lay it on a bit thick – Allen's overly dramatic reading of the title track, in particular, needing to be reined in considerably, as do the vocals in "BitterSweet," a lifeless, uninspired power ballad that cannot be resuscitated.

There is greatness in The Great Divide, even if it's not quite a masterpiece.
– Peter Lindblad

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