It's been four years since the last Place Vendome album. Perhaps some explanation of this Frontiers Music project is required to jog old memories and inform the newly inquisitive. Essentially, Place Vendome is a platform for German vocalist Michael Kiske (Helloween, Unisonic, Avantasia, et al), where Frontiers president secures major European musicians to write songs specifically for him. With this album the host of contributors is large and strong, with some repeat participants as well: Magnus Karlsson, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Jani Liimatainen (Cain's Offering, ex-Sonata Arctica), Olaf Thorsen (Vision Divine, Labyrinth), Fabio Lione (Vision Divine, Angra, ex-Labyrinth, ex-Rhapsody of Fire), Simone Mularoni (DGM), Mike Palace and Aldo Lonobile (Secret Sphere). Additionally, the project has tapped an equally formidable crew of guitarists to lay down epic solos: Gus G (Firewind), Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, Unisonic), Mandy Meyer (Krokus, Unisonic), Alfred Koffler, Michael Klein, Magnus Karlsson and Simone Mularoni. (See the song by song list below.) Dennis Ward once more produces.
Now if your first reaction to all that is, like, "Holy Shit!" Yeah. I get that. Between the songwriting and participants, the fourth Place Vendome, Close To The Sun, is the perfect storm of kick ass melodic hard hard rock, with a metal edge, and then wrapped in AOR accessibility. Honestly, as much as I enjoy Kiske's voice and vocal style, I think the songs themselves, then the guest musicians, steal the show (and possibly a little of Kiske's thunder).
Also with some honesty, with one possible exception, I can say every song here is pretty killer. For that mixture of hard rock groove and metal edge, Riding The Ghost, Welcome To The Edge, Light Before The Dark, and Hereafter deliver the goods. The latter two are examples of exceptional hooks in the vocal arrangement, yet also a good dose of pleasing synths. Kiske shows his best AOR vocal chops in the two anthems Strong and Breathing, both emotional and soaring.
Now, you're probably wondering what song was my exception. It's the song named after a woman: Helen. Ever since Toto's Rosanna I cast a wary eye on songs given a female name. Geez, I hate that song. Helen is essentially a high-powered ballad, complete with a furious solo from Mandy Meyer, but otherwise it wasn't all that interesting. Yet, that's not to say that the song is some weak link in the album. Hardly. Within the context of the whole, in the sense of song character, it fits the album.
Once more, our friends at Frontiers Music have put together another fine and fabulous Place Venoome project. The songs are exceptional and enjoyable, Michael Kiske sounds great, and those guest guitarists lay down some amazing solos. Easily recommended.
Guitar solos provicded by:
Michael Klein on "Yesterday Is Gone", "Distant Skies", "Strong", "Breathing".
Uwe Reitenauer on "Close To the Sun"
Alfred Koffler on "Welcome To The Edge"
Magnus Karlsson on "Falling Star"
Gus G on "Light Beyond The Dark"
Simone Mularoni on "Hearafter"
Mandy Meyer on "Helen"
Kai Hansen on "Riding The Ghost" and "Across The Times"
Once more, our friends at Frontiers Music have put together another fine and fabulous Place Venoome project. The songs are exceptional and enjoyable, Michael Kiskes sounds great, and those guest guitarists lay down some amazing solos. Easily recommended.
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