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Allen/Lande: The Battle

Who'd a thunk Russell Allen could possibly keep up his incredible hot streak? After the incredible and critically acclaimed solo project Atomic Soul and the last magnificent Symphony X opus The Odyssey , one could have expected Russell to either rest on his laurels or hit a dry patch. Not so, The Battle is another superbly crafted release bristling with exciting and intelligent musical tales.

Joining Allen, and sharing equally on song lyric writing chores and vocals for this project is Jorn Lande ( Masterplan). The real kudos however belong to guitarist extraordinaire and all around wizard Magnus Karlsson (Last Tribe, Starbreaker) who composed all the music and co-produced this epic. He and Allen/Lande are ably abetted by Jaime Slazar (former Flower Kings) on skins and "Theo" Theander's great production (Pain of Salvation).

The more than an hours worth of music is a combination of solo vocal spots and great collaborative efforts between the two singers. The real glue here though is the intelligent riffing of Karlsson who lends a Norum like "heavy" yet always melodic presence to the proceedings. The voices mesh grandly although I tend to prefer Allen's solo interpretations to Lande's, but only ever so slightly, both offer up excellent performances here. There are very few albums released these days that contain enough interesting material (particularly when clocking at well over an hour) to capture and maintain my undivided attention. The Battle is one of these very few. Anyone who loved Atomic Soul will surely want to add this one to their collection. The following track listing indicates the vocal contributions on the CD.


Track Listing
1.Another Battle (Jorn & Russell)
2. Hunters Night (Russell)
3. Wish For A Miracle (Jorn & Russell)
4. Reach A Little Longer (Jorn)
5. Come Alive (Jorn & Russell)
6. Truth Of Our Time (Jorn & Russell)
7. My Own Way (Jorn)
8. Ask You Anyway (Russell)
9. Silent Rage (Jorn & Russell)
10. Where Have The Angels Gone (Jorn)
11. Universe Of Light (Russell)
12. The Forgotten Ones (Jorn & Russell)

Added: October 8th 2005
Reviewer: Mike Blackburn
Score:
Related Link: Frontiers Records
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Allen/Lande: The Battle
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-10-08 13:14:34
My Score:

With two of rock's best singers on the same bill, this album is more than likely to be considered Russel Allen and Jorn Lande "battling" it out, trying to score on each other with their universal vocal talents. Not even close. Well, here's the deal.

This album is the brainchild of Magnus Karlsson from Last Tribe and Starbreaker, as he is solely responsible for all music and lyrics. However, he (or his record label) has wisely chosen to title it as the Allen/Lande project to increase the marketability of the release, also enlisting the services of Jaime Salazar on drums. Everything else from guitars to keys and bass is played by Magnus Karlsson. Personally, when I first heard of this project being in the works, given the two vocalists' back catalogs filled with progressive monuments, I couldn't help but expect a darker, heavier and obviously progressive release, perhaps something in between Symphony X's The Odyssey and Jorn's killer products under the Beyond Twilight and Ark monikers. However, as good as the album is now, it just turned out to be a solo album of Magnus Karlsson (and maybe this should be mentioned on the CD cover) with two amazing singers lending their vocal abilities. Moreover, I expected this to be a real "duet" album, where Jorn and Russel would get together, and actually exchange verses and even choruses to grace us with a timeless metal release. Again, things have been handled differently. As a matter of fact, this is hardly the meeting point of Russel Allen and Jorn Lande, as they didn't even see each other when they laid down their vocal parts. Jorn actually recorded his parts last year in the fall of 2004 in Norway, while Russel recorded his voice earlier this year back in the USA.

Perhaps it's no big deal, as there are plenty of projects out there with numerous guest vocalists. But then maybe that's the difference. This was supposed to be a unique album with two (not ten, twelve or fifteen!) amazingly powerful voices coming together, perhaps writing together, and definitely recording together. Out of twelve tracks, six of them are the "duet" pieces, if you want to call them such. Sadly those duets feel like Jorn Lande is doing the leads, especially in the choruses, whilst Russel Allen is lower in the mix, singing high pitch and trying to harmonise with him. Could this be the reason that Jorn was the first to record the album and therefore had the freedom to choose the vocal melodies? More than possible. Yes, the verse and bridges are fairly shared, but it's still evident they were recorded at a different time and place. The choruses, however, on all six songs put Jorn's voice under the light, and Russel is just behind there hitting some higher notes. Does it sound bad? Not even the slightest bit. But I certainly expected more.

With all of this being said, the album did impact me to a certain degree after many listens. What we have here is a melodic metal meets power metal meets AOR meets modern hard rock type of album, with silky production work done by Anders Theander (Pain of Salvation) and Magnus Karlsson himself. Except the duet songs, the other six pieces are equally shared by Russel and Jorn as solo numbers, and in some ways prove to be better than the duets. While "Hunter's Night" with Russel and "Where Have the Angels Gone" with Jorn are powerful statements of melodic metal mixed with AOR harmonies, both tracks contain some silly lyrics in their choruses such as: ("Don't you look into her evil eyes/ Don't touch her cold skin or slowly you will die/ Don't be fooled by her friendly smile/ Don't you follow her treacherous voice/ That leads the fool into her arms"). The Jorn-sung "My Own Way Home" slams right into his recent work with Masterplan, being heavy and utilising plenty of double bass drums. Russel also delivers a tune that will be likened to his solo material on Atomic Soul, as "Ask You Anyway" is a less bluesy but heavier rock song that also recalls Journey with a fantastic sweep guitar solo. The duet tracks are more in the AOR vein, emphasizing vocal melodies and focusing on the voices rather than the instrumentation, as illustrated on "Wish for a Miracle" and "Truth About Our Time". The duo make their most impressive statement on "The Forgotten Ones", the final track, with piano, searing blues guitar, tons of keys, and excellent vocal layerings. Theander has produced and arranged this track so cleverly that the duet sounds almost real and both singers prove they're indestructable in their respective fields. The last 40 seconds or so of this piece are priceless, especially the way Lande literally cuts loose and records some of his most awe-inspiring screams since The Devil's Hall of Fame.

This is going to appeal to a vary broad rock audience. It is melodic, accessible and catchy. Unfortunately Magnus Karlsson's profound guitar skills won't be noticed right away, as most of these people will be hooked by the singers' voices, but he is a great player with perfect tone and flow in his expressions. I just wish he had gone for a heavier and more progressive approach, but that's just me.




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