I love it when I see a new Allen/Lande collaboration. Ever since the two vocal powerhouses of Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Jørn Lande (Masterplan) began singing over songs performed, composed and arranged by Primal Fear guitarist, Magnus Karlsson, the music has been great with the vocals taking already good metal to the next level. Since their 2005 debut (The Battle), we've had two other albums leading up to the their new, fourth studio release - and the first one without Karlsson as songwriter: The Great Divide.
Replacing Magnus is none other than Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius), though Lande did contribute to the songwriting as well. But the meat of these albums is the expert pairing of two of metal's greatest vocalists today. And were it not for their level of expertise, it could easily turn into a singer's pissing contest where two bad-asses try to outdo each other with no regard for the music. This is why these albums work so well, letting the music breathe underneath while the two metal gods go at it.
Sorry to say, however, I really miss Magnus Karlsson's writing. His subtly progressive brand of melodic metal just worked better with these vocalists. Timo's no slouch of course, but perhaps being away from Stratovarius for so long, indulging his other musical tastes has left him a bit rusty when it comes to ensemble writing. The music is energetic, there's good guitar playing, the vocals are solid, but in the end, it just doesn't come together like previous albums. Interestingly, the slower songs seem better, which is in almost complete contrast to Karlsson's stuff, where the slower stuff got a little boring. This isn't to say The Great Divide is a bad album by any means - there's just so much raw talent involved here, how could that be true? But when compared to previous works from this outfit, there just seems to be something missing. I'm willing to wait a bit longer to see if the next album's material solidifies for me a bit more.
The Bottom Line: The Allen/Lande collaborations have been going strong for four albums now, but with a change in the songwriting department has come a different feel to the whole thing that's a little less...intriguing. Hopefully, this is just an initial impression that will change with repeated listens. Sorry, Tolkki.
- Genghis really wanted to get into this album...