Arguably two of the greatest singers metal has had in the last 20 years have once again come together. Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Jorn Lande (Jorn, Yngwie Malmsteen, Masterplan) have released 3 previous albums with Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear ) taking the duties of writing, producing and playing nearly everything apart from drums. “The Great Divide” is somewhat of a different beast. Timo Tolkki who ceremoniously left Stratovarius 6 years ago and wanted to concentrate on his own solo career has stepped in to fulfill the roles once occupied by Karlsson.
Opening straight out of the gates with the storming “Come Dream With Me” there is a clear intent for the rest of the album to wipe away the softer ballads of the previous albums and really wring every last rasp from both Allen and Lande. There is a definite ‘Stratovarius’ sound on the album but this is more from Tolkki’s guitar playing and not to the detriment to those listeners who weren’t big fans of the band. Tolkki’s guitar playing by the way is the best from him I’ve heard in years. In the middle of the album lies “Lady of Winter” which is very much a track that Lande could have written himself for “The Duke”. You can hear that he is back in his comfort zone on this mid tempo heavy ballad.
Absent though are the somehwhat softer ballads that Karlsson wrote like “Gone too Far” (from “The Revenge”) this harder style may not to be to some peoples taste but the songwriting and lyrics are some of the strongest either singer has sung in a long time. One of my favourite things about this album is the way that everything has gelled in a way the was there with 2007’s “the Revenge” but missing on the last album 2010’s “The Showdown”.
A more collaborative effort really cements what Tolkki had written, as producer he has delivered the best out of the two powerhouse singers that makes you want to listen to/ revisit the back catalogue of everybody involved. Sometimes a track by track analysis is required to describe an album. Not here. I think anybody who enjoys any of the bands that are attached to Lande, Allen or Tolkki will get something different from The Great Divide. Also, if you have ever enjoyed anything form Frontier records you will love this album. It is probably the best Allen/Lande album to date and the best Timo Tolkki has sounded (both guitar playing and songwriting) in many many years.
ALLEN / LANDE:
Jorn Lande: vocals
Russell Allen: vocals
Timo Tolkki: guitars, bass, keyboards
Jami Huovinen: drums