As if the Norwegian rocker's name has simply flied by your radar from time to time, I'll quickly fill you in in this paragraph. Jorn Lande has made his vocal contributions in numerous bands such Avantasia, Ayreon, the Allen/Lande project, Masterplan etc. My best memories with him was when I heard him for the first time through the latter band, when I started exploring the metal territory in my teen years. Getting the positive impressions from Masterplan, it made me a believer in metal music in due time...
But let's get it out of the way and back to the subject! About Jorn Lande... This man is a Norwegian powerhouse of vocal talent. The people's comparisons of his voice with David Coverdale's timbre and Ronnie James Dio's power are quite common these days. His passion in music and his convincing vocal delivery has mostly earned him respect from fans and bands alike. So if you're one of those who has only heard him through his guest/band contributions, then what's with his solo albums to you? For that question, that would depend...
... On what kind of heavy metal you like? Throughout his discography, Jorn and his solo band has covered various elements of metal and hard rock, while maintaining their dark, raw but modern tone of the traditional metal sound. Worldchanger and Out To Every Nation goes in different metal directions at best and got some progressive moments while Lonely Are The Brave and albums later on puts more emphasis on the 70's/80's hard rock elements. The Duke served as a bridge as the band evolved their sound to something that they are more comfortable with (or just him, due to constant line-up changes?). Not much has been said or praised about his debut album, "Starfire", as his later follow-ups and I suppose it's not a big surprise, as Jorn himself told that he sees this album more as a demo rather than an LP release. Half of it consists of cover songs of his favorite bands while there are a couple of songs where the band carries the influences on their shoulders, which likely makes the record the most diverse per definition.
The hard rock sound sums up the majority of this record, with my favorite track being the anthemic Starfire that opens the album and the well-performed Journey cover Edge Of The Blade. I could say the same for the Deep Purple cover Burn and City Boy's The Day The Earth Caught The Fire, which got quite some re-vamp on the "Unlocking The Past" album.
Some tracks have got the AOR in their veins as well, which may gain mixed response depending on the listener's taste. As for me, I'll pass the Foreigner cover Break It Up as an OK track.
But in contrast to that, this record holds some heavy metal tracks that would define his solo band's sound for the following records. Gate of Tears serves as the crowning moment of the album with its driving tempo and thought-provoking lyrics; while Abyss Of Evil is a pounding beast of a track, carrying the Dio/Black Sabbath influences on its shoulders.
There are a couple of oddball tracks in-between, with what you could call a sappy ballad called Forever Yours setting a lighter mood while End Comes Easy plays out with a middle-eastern folk setting and I definitely found it interesting.
While I find a good deal of tracks enjoyable enough to get this CD, I would rather suggest the Jorn neophytes to rather check in his compilation albums "The Gathering" and "Unlocking The Past" for most of the improved re-recordings of the best songs here. Some exclusive tracks might be better off downloaded separately. But, as a whole, the production on this album is decent enough and the musicians pulled it off professionaly! It showed back then that Jorn had the ambitions enough to set his own niche. For the years to come, the raven has soared high with every release. So far, so good!
Standout tracks: Starfire, Gate Of Tears, The Day The Earth Caught Fire, Burn and End Comes Easy.