(All Album Reviews by jlneudorf)
Author Kevin J. Anderson’s epic vision continues with Terra Incognita – A Line in the Sand the follow up to Terra Incognita – Beyond the Horizon. While the first album was directed by keyboard wizard Eric Norlander, this time the reigns are taken by multi-instrumentalist Henning Pauly (Frameshift, Chain) and like Norlander he does a great job.
First a little about the story thus far. On a fictional planet there are two continents – Tierra and Uraba connected by a thin piece of land. In the city of Ishalem there exists two religions. Factions from both lands travel to Ishalem to sign a peace treaty but a fire is started by accident and both sides blame the other as peace is put on hold and a line in the sand is drawn. On the new CD war between the two lands is the focus. When one considers the story it is no surprise the music on A Line In The Sand is heavier than the debut with a greater emphasis on guitar. However, there are still plenty of orchestral moments to keep the keyboard lovers happy.
Like the first album, A Line In The Sand has some excellent musicians. The only returnee is Michael Sadler on vocals but he shares the stage with some awesome talent like Steve Walsh (Kansas), Sass Jordan, Nick Storr (The Third Ending), Charlie Dominici (ex-Dream Theater)and Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon). Henning Pauly handles all the instruments.
While this ventures more into heavy rock and progressive metal the album is no less intriguing than the first and highly listenable. Pauly’s fret work is spot on throughout providing heavy riffs, fantastic lead work and just about anything else you could ask of a guitarist. His contribution is nothing short of excellent and while this is complicated music with tricky time signatures and complex arrangements, the story never gets lost in excessive bombast as the cheese factor is kept to a minimum. As far as keyboards are concerned they are not laid out quite as thick as the last CD but are still used to good effect and there are some fine orchestral arrangements throughout.
Perhaps the strongest aspect of A Line In The Sand are the vocals. They are superb and I cannot argue with any of Anderson’s choices as they all give passionate performances.
The dramatic beginning to “Barricade” with Walsh’s gritty vocals over a symphonic backdrop before a wonderful Eastern chord progression ensues is pure magic. Storr and Sadler provide vocals for the fiery progressive metal of “Whirlwind” where sinuous lead guitar and a hook laden chorus will have you coming back for more.
Choosing personal favourites was tough as this is such a strong CD but Walsh’s vocal performance in “Spiral” is truly inspiring and the Queen-like vocal arrangement in “When God Smiled On Us” is a definite highlight as Storr and Alex Froese do a great job.
This is an excellent sophomore effort and I cannot wait to hear the third instalment of the trilogy. One of the best CDs I have heard thus far in 2010. Trust me, it is that good.