Russell Allen / Anette Olzon - Worlds Apart

Russell Allen / Anette Olzon Worlds Apart cover
Russell Allen / Anette Olzon
Worlds Apart
Frontiers Music srl
Probably trying to squeeze as much out of people they collaborate with an not wanting to go for a fifth Allen/Lande album at least yet, the evil Doctors at Frontier’s dungeon (actually modest floor level office) seem to have taken away the mighty Norse from the equation and grafted another Scandinavian, Swedish singer, Anette Olzon (ex-Nightwish, Dark Element), who along with Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob, Ayreon) join forces in an album mostly written and overseen by also Swedish guitarist Magnus Karlsson, who was also responsible for the first three Allen-Lande albums.
With Karlsson also spread thin between all his bands and numerous projects, it’s a surprise how solid this album sounds, but in a way I must say I wished it featured a better female singer, or someone other than Olzon. She’s not bad, but her singing sounds rather flat, compared to the rich timbre and passionate delivery of Allen. Actually if Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) was available or even Floor Jansen (whose solo effort with some nerdy guitarist a couple of years back must have died the worst possible death ever) were in Olzon’s place this album would have been much better.
Opener “Never Die” is an Allen track, with Olzon only doing some almost inaudible harmony intro. It sounds like something that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Symphony X album, or the better moments of Allen/Lande. That good…
The title track, “Worlds Apart”, is not bad overall and Allen and Olzon dueting isn’t actually bad, as Allen provides the thick lower and mids and Olzon mostly harmonizes over those, with them even going into unison at certain points.  It’s not some revelation but it’s a neat track.
“I’ll Never Leave You” is an Olzon track, with a great intro and ideas but Olzon sounds too thin in places, whereas, where she’s multi tracked (or does different lives), she sounds significantly better.
The chorus and nice guitars save the day.
“What if I Live” is a proper duet, which begins with exchanged verses before melding the two voices into some interesting harmonies and more. I must say that pitting Allen against a different sounding vocalist (since Jorn was similar to him in a few ways) makes for a more interesting interplay in duets, where there’s a wider contrast, which also translates in more daring arrangements on behalf of Karlsson.
“Lost Soul” returns the reigns to Allen and with the amount of keys it have and Allen sounding as he does, sounds like a collision between Kamelot and Symphony X, which is not the worst thing imaginable, I guess, especially since Karlsson gifts the song with an interesting enough riff.
“No Sign of Life” is a strong melodic mid-tempo, that does works, but really lifts above okay, during the chorus and its solo, which is one of the better ones on the album.
“One More Chance” begins with some very celebratory keyboards, that had had me expecting some huge arrangement, only for Olzon to deliver a rather simple ballad, which gets additional layers of orchestration added and subtracted. It’s symphonic, but not in the way that Nightwish were. It’s fair and she does displays more passion and flair at least on the chorus of this track. In other news Karlsson scores another cool solo.
“My Enemy” is a duo that must have been shelved Allen/Lande. Based on the muscular riff, I’d have preferred it if Allen did the heavy lifting on the first verse and then Ozlon the second, instead of them doing half each. The chorus works up to a point, but does drop the ball towards the end.
“Who You Really Are” is another Allen solo and its well pleasant… with the strings (violins) etc. adding a nice ornamentation to the overall result. It’s a joy to hear the man not wasting his talents on pseudo-macho posturing (ie Adrenaline Mob), but then again now he seems to waste them on custom tailored solo jobs that tend to range in terms of quality, quite a bit.
“Cold Inside” is an Ozlon solo track and it’s typical of a good enough execution of a track but one that’s lacking “fire” and “soul”. She even enunciates rather weirdly on this one. Both factors bring this highly melodious tune (which is still not a ballad) down.
Lastly, “Who’s Gonna Stop Me Now”, which begins with some promising guitars and a cool Allen vocal, which is soon harmonized by Olzon is a fair, but not amazing duet that fails to bring the album to a glorious close, mostly because it lacks that ultra-big chorus or hook melody.
Well, who’s gonna stop Karlsson from writing and producing all these side projects, probably no-one… and they’d better not, since he’s one of the better writers within Frontiers towers.
A by the numbers spiritual successor (?) to the Allen/Lande albums, by the same man who build that whole thing up, which is mostly kept back not so much by the songs or Russel Allen, but rather by Ozlon being unable to match the spirited performances of her counterpart.
While some project albums can be particularly well done – case and point Ayreon or Avantasia, this side-portion feels like a missed opportunity for something better.