Allen-Lande - The Showdown (Frontiers/Riot)

Three years since their last collaboration, Jorn and Russell are back in the saddle with a marvelous new effort.
Release Date: 
5 Nov 2010 - 11:30pm

“Showdown!” Barks throatmeister supreme Jorn Lande at the start of this, the third collaboration between two of modern metal’s finest vocalists. And whilst that may not be quite true in terms of this release – both vocalists compliment one another superbly rather than engaging in a final-conflict style fight to the death, it certainly sets up a nice ‘review angle’ for lazy writers like me...

But really there’s no competition here. Lande takes a slightly more prominent role vocally – his majestic vocals on the likes of Judgement Day reminding us just what a master of the craft the man has become over the last decade and a half (and why he currentky one of the most sought-after voices in the business)- and his more forceful style certainly means that it’s his contributions (at least vocally) that will be consistently among the most remembered moments from this album. Yet Russell Allen – a smoother, more soulful vocalist than Lande- takes line honours with the single best performance on the album; His beautiful reading of the power ballad Copernicus really is the crowning moment of the album, a first among equals that is simply beautiful to listen to. Coming on like a mellifluous blend of Foreigner’s Lou Gramm and former Deep Purple warbler Joe Lynn Turner, Allen’s voice is ideally suited to the more AOR-tinged material on offer here. That said, Lande’s own power ballad-the stupendously pompous Bloodlines is also rather special, sounding like nothing less than a long-lost Journey tune from around 1983,  which, though sure to raise the hackles of the ‘it’s not metal’ brigade is most definitely OK in this not-so-humble reviewer’s opinion...

But its metal we really want, right? So look no further than the coruscating brilliance of Turn All Into Gold, a magnificent synthesis of Allen’s regular gig (Symphony X, like you didn’t already know) with some slightly gothy, Euro-metal touches a la Paradise Lost wearing their Say Just Words tour hats.

But what really makes this album an essential purchase, beyond the faultless vocal performances, is the songwriting skill of guitarist Magnus Karlsson. The Primal Fear/Starbreaker man is the unsung hero here, coming up with a set of songs that suits the diverse strengths of both singers whilst still hanging together well enough to sound like a ‘proper’ album. It’s a magnificent feat, and one which goes a long way to making this one of the finest melodic hard rock/metal albums to emerge in the last couple of years. It’s a crass thing to say, but I’m going to say it anyway – I love this record.