Allen - Lande - The Showdown
Frontiers Records
Melodic Hard Rock/Metal
12 songs (61'27")
Release year: 2010
Frontiers Records
Reviewed by Erik
Album of the month

Musicians occasionally have this nasty habit of recycling. I listen to a lot of film scores, and probably the most infamous example in the realm of composers is James Horner. Have you heard the music from Titanic or Avatar? Then by default you've automatically also heard Apollo 13, Legends of the Fall, Deep Impact, Braveheart, and The Rocketeer. Of course, the world of metal is full of their own examples, and that brings us to The Showdown, album number three from the Allen/Lande/Karlsson team. I've been contemplating for quite some time (far too long, in some measure) how to put a fair, balanced review on what initially struck me as "The Battle Part III". Every impression was that of a good-but-heard-before formula, and I believed what we were delivered was actually an average album in disguise.

Except it isn't. What it is, is an amazing, brilliant work that is easily more than the sum of its parts. To begin with, Starbreaker guitarist Magnus Karlsson is quickly becoming known for his Midas touch. He can write hooks in his sleep, rip off virtuoso guitar solos and riffs, moving piano and keyboard parts, and even provide bass guitar (drums are performed once again by Jaime Salazar). Not to mention, for the third time in a row, he has been able to extract tremendous performances from his two leads, Jorn Lande and Russell Allen. And what can be said about that pair that hasn't already been hacked into superlatives and cliches? I really enjoy hearing them together again on the same project, as their appearances on the latest Avantasia albums were little more than a tease. Putting two of the finest hard rock/metal vocalists in the business in a duel of sorts was, of course, a stroke of pure genius, and The Showdown proves that the third collaboration is indeed the equal of the first two outings.

After a brief but effective intro, Lande howls "Showdown!" and sets up the terrific opening number. I challenge you to give this title track a few spins and see if you can ever get that chorus out of your head! Truly one of the great melodic metal tracks, it combines excellent guitar work, masterful use of keyboards, and an awe-inspiring vocal face-off right from the first minute. It would have been a real disappointment to have each singer rattle off separate tracks, label the album "The Battle", and then create two equally sub-par sequels. In this writer's opinion, using multiple vocalists on an album such as this one involves layering parts between and around each other, opera-style. Of course, this isn't an Ayreon album, and yet Magnus allows both singers to play off each other's lines and counterpoint while still retaining the outline of a hard rock/melodic metal project.

Next is Judgement Day, which starts with a beautiful symphonic/choral arrangement followed by another killer track. Magnus keeps his guitar sound thick and heavy through use of double-tracking, as Gus G and others do, and even tosses in some quick double-bass kicks just to keep you Masterplan fans happy. Jorn lets loose with some primal howling at the end, which is just icing on the cake. Dennis Ward's tight, talented production can be heard here, as he really does have a gift for this kind of music, and the mix is spot-on from Achim Kohler (Primal Fear). Never Again is a piano ballad for Lande, as Copernicus is for Allen, and both are amazing. Turn All Into Gold throws down yet another memorable chorus, with searing keyboard and guitar leads and fills. Oh wait, so does The Artist. The guitar lick that leads into and forms the basis for this song is just perfect, and the keyboard chords under Lande's vocals in the verses are haunting and memorable.

I found a kind of amusing tie to Beyond Twilight in the song Bloodlines, as Jorn's performance here reminded me greatly of his work on The Devil's Hall Of Fame. Not only that, the intro piano and verses to the Allen-sung track Maya had me flashing back to the training sequence in Rocky. Strange, but no less enjoyable for it. In fact, every track is very strong, effectively combining the melodic genius of The Battle and the heavyiness of The Revenge, which may well make The Showdown my personal favorite of the three to date.

It really is difficult to describe an album like this without sliding back into the pool of overused adjectives. In particular, these musicians have discovered a very winning formula, and seem to be unable to NOT deliver the goods every time out. This trilogy can stand as three of the greatest modern-era rock/metal collaborations out there. All killer, no filler (even at the risk of wearing that phrase out), a definite must-have for any fans of the first two projects or indeed any AOR/melodic metal. What a fantastic release!

Killing Songs :
Erik quoted 96 / 100
Other albums by Allen - Lande that we have reviewed:
Allen - Lande - The Great Divide reviewed by Joel and quoted 89 / 100
Allen - Lande - The Revenge reviewed by Marty and quoted 86 / 100
Allen - Lande - The Battle reviewed by Marty and quoted 95 / 100
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