At a time when a single creative property can be exploited in a variety of ways -- from novels to movies to stage productions to theme park rides, and so on -- it's not surprising that author Kevin J. Anderson should be thinking ahead with his Terra Incognita series of books. Starting with 2009's The Edge of the World, he has been sponsoring concurrent music CDs featuring his favorite style, heavy metal, and adopting the group name Roswell Six, even though the singers and musicians vary from disc to disc. Terra Incognita: A Line in the Sand is the correspondent album to the second novel in the series, The Map of All Things, although Anderson in his liner notes states that he and Rebecca Moesta "crafted a set of lyrics that tell a part of the overall epic not included in the novel." He does, however, provide prose introductions to each of the songs, suggesting that his story line is a sort of fantasy version of the Crusades in which "the followers of Urec [i.e., Mohammed]," in their land of Uraba (Arabia) occupy the city of Ishalem (Jerusalem), while being bedeviled by "the followers of Aiden [Jesus Christ]," the Aidenists (Christians), who live in Tierra (Europe). Actually, though, it all sounds more like the Hatfields and the McCoys. Anderson is most interested in the leaders of his warring forces, and such characters as "Soldan-Shah Omra, leader of Uraba," Anjine, the queen of Tierra, and her main general (and main squeeze) Mateo, all get their own songs. There is a photograph of Anderson in the CD booklet, sitting surrounded by old LPs including ones by Rush and Queen, and that gives a good idea of what kind of music he likes his characters like to perform to. The music is provided by Henning Pauly, credited as the composer and also the performer of all instruments. The singing is done by guests including Steve Walsh of Kansas (as Soldan-Shah Omra), Sass Jordan (as Anjine), and Michael Sadler, formerly of Saga (as Mateo). They howl and groan and wheeze enthusiastically over Pauly's musical assault, but it's all to little effect. The problem isn't so much the silliness and pretentiousness of the overall project as it is the mediocrity of the music and lyrics. Maybe the real fantasy here is that there could be some heavy metal version of Broadway out there where this rock opera actually could be staged, but even if there were, the music on this album would not rate such a production. The album really should be consigned to the gift shop at the Terra Incognita theme park, if Anderson ever gets around to building one.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann