|Russell Allen / Jorn Lande The Battle||Frontiers Records|
Jorn vs Jorn for album of the year? It might just be. Jorn Lande kicked our asses with the second Masterplan album, which was released officially in January. For me that's been one of the major highlights of the year to date and now, with the last quarter of 2005 closing in, Jorn is back to plant another large boot into my nether-regions.|
Joining Jorn on this album is Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen. Providing the musical muscle is Magnus Karlsson – last seen guiding the Starbreaker release to fame and of course remaining in charge of his main gig Last Tribe.
Responsible for the bombastic guitars, bass and keyboards, Magnus plays his absolute ass off here and helps producer Anders Theander carefully mix all these parts together.
That the album sounds utterly fabulous should not be under appreciated. The production and mix would have been extremely challenging, given that one individual played three main instruments and then two different lead vocals were required to be blended together.
First impressions led me to believe this was Jorn's show. His voice seemed everywhere and it's hard for any singer compete with the number 1 metal vocalist in the world.
Once you recover from the melodic metal onslaught and get over the fact that every single song has a killer chorus (and finish singing those choruses), you get the chance to better understand the album and really sit and pay attention to its individual parts.
It is then that you realize that Russell Allen's contribution is equal to Jorn's and just as important. While Jorn takes the higher register and some of the more noticeable soaring melodies, Russell's deeper and grittier vocals provide the foundation of the songs and the necessary bass tone to make these all high-impact songs.
Aside from the insane vocals, the shining highlight of this album are the songs themselves. Written entirely by Karlsson, the Swede must surely now rate as one of this scene's most inspired individuals.
The Battle contains some of the best metal choruses ever gathered on one single album. They are so utterly catchy and memorable – in a real melodic sense – that you can't help but love this album.
While the impact of the powerhouse vocals and the pounding and at times bombastic instrumentation can not be undersold, the songs themselves are so catchy you will find fans of softer melodic rock and even AOR drifting towards purchasing this album.
If I did a track by track, this review would take a week to write. Suffice to say that each and every track on this album has merits and there are no fillers. A definite contender for album of the year, but for different reasons than the Masterplan opus.
There is a certain familiarity between some of the tracks featured, a point also raised on the Starbreaker release – but there variety in delivery here is much stronger.
To highlight just a few tracks –
The opening anthem Another Battle is everything you could ask of an opening track – big, bombastic and anthemic. A moody verse gives way to a monster chorus with both vocalists given room to shine.
Reach A Little Longer is a haunting and moody metal ballad with another monster chorus and some truly outstanding vocals from both gents, but Jorn Lande especially.
Come Alive sees the quality of the album lift even further. The song features a pounding melodic metal riff, which gives way to a surprisingly melodic vocal during the verse followed by a sensational fits-in-the-air chorus, all fuelled by a double kick drum rhythm.
Truth Of Our Time features yet another brilliant bridge / chorus and offers something different again for listeners.
My Own Way is another highlight, with more brain damaging riffs accompanied by thoroughly melodic vocals and a great chorus.
Where Have The Angels Gone continues the brilliance, with a slight slow down in intensity to allow the listener some time regain control of your senses!
The album's very finest moments are probably through the middle section, but it remains consistent throughout.
Essential for all fans of Lande and Allen, but also for anyone that just loves powerful hard rock with a big fat melodic edge. Magnus Karlsson's finest hour to date.
As for the album in general comparison to Aeronautics – there are similarities and differences - the recent Masterplan album was more intense and the overall production tighter. It was an album that grew and really made it's mark. It was also a little more geared towards a contemporary metal sound. The Battle is more commercial and a touch more melodic and has some more instantly recognizable choruses. Either way, both are fabulous releases!
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