Behold, a new album from ALLEN/LANDE is upon us! Vocal giants Russell Allen (SYMPHONY X) and Jørn Lande (ex-MASTERPLAN) have teamed up with Timo Tolkki (ex-STRATOVARIUS) to give us another record of blazing power metal and melodic rock featuring old-time metal riffs and killer duets. The Great Divide is collaboration number four and marks the first time Magnus Karlsson (PRIMAL FEAR) is not the producer, main instrumentalist and songwriter, which is where Tolkki comes in. And you know what? He does just fine. Is this better than the first three records? No, it isn’t. But still, it’s a solid chunk of riff-laden metal with big hooks and a majestic feel. Were you expecting something else from these guys?
Right from the outset opener “Come Dream With Me” had my attention, with soaring vocals and an uplifting chorus that I’ve been singing out loud for weeks, much to the horror of my co-workers. Even while driving you’ll find yourself belting this one out for sure. “Down From the Mountain” is an absolute joy to rock out to, sounding every bit the conquering song it is. The STRATOVARIUS sound is strong with these songs, and “In the Hands of Time” is a perfect example of this. The refrain is just outstanding and this wound up being one of Mini-Amps’ favorites on the disc. However, MY favorite is 100% “Solid Ground”. I’m telling you Tolkki has his mojo back, so all of you can stop worrying, OK? If you still aren’t convinced check out “Lady of Winter” another exemplary cut that kept me coming back for more.
“Dream About Tomorrow” has shades of GAMMA RAY and is one of the more high-speed low-drag songs found on the album. The solo is interstellar as well, my boy! A thicker groove blankets parts of “The Hymn to the Fallen” while at other times it could easily be a WHITESNAKE demo from 1986. I’m not bitching, just stating fact. Hell, I love that era of the group! And then…well then, the record comes to a grinding halt. The title track is a plodding mess that limps along for six painful minutes and is one I always skip simply because I can’t take it. Not to worry though, because on “Reaching For the Stars” the AOR/Melodic Rock sound is alive and well and it’s a perfect way to forget the mess that is the previous track. This is another one of those “Perfect-for-an-80’s-movie-montage” tunes that is a toe-tapping delight.
The Great Divide ends with “Bittersweet”, a song I fully expect I would have heard as I got up to leave during the end credits of a movie at the Pequa Theater or Sunrise Mall back in 1985. A farewell to a bad relationship, it closes things on a bit of a somber note. All told I enjoyed this record, but I definitely think the first half is much stronger. Still, if this is but the first in a new trilogy of albums with Timo Tolkki at the helm then I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing what’s next. The Great Divide is out now via Frontiers Records.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Come Dream With Me”, “Down From the Mountain”, “Solid Ground”, “Lady of Winter”, “In the Hands of Time”