PALACE – Master Of The Universe

PALACEMASTOFThe name Michael Palace sure rings a bell for yours truly. I can’t put my finger on where I have heard that name before but it sounds very familiar. Some quick research (yes, I read the press release…) shows that Michael Palace has been working as a song writer for Frontiers Records and that he was involved in projects such as the Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) fronted First Signal also as a guitar player. He has also been involved in projects like Cry Of Dawn (with Göran Edman of Yngwie Malmsteen, Madison, Glory and a million other acts), Kryptonite (with Jacob Samuel from Poodles) and Toby Hitchcock (Pride Of Lions) and he also fronted the now defunct Swedish melodic hard rock band Big Time. No wonder his name rang a bell. Since working close to the Frontiers label guys, it’s not that strange that they heard his demos and offered him a deal – according to Frontiers, the material was too strong not to sign him. Even though Palace looks like a band on the promo pics, this is a solo project where Michael sang and played all the instruments except for a few guitar solos by one Rick Digorio, his partner from the Big Time days. Rick is the guitar player for Palace now when live dates are on the map. The other members are bass player Soufian Ma’Aul and drummer Marcus Johansson, both earlier with Reach and Adrenaline Rush. The guys in this band has also been involved with acts such as Houston, Find Me and Erika, to mention a few. So it is an experienced band we have here, despite their young age. I have recently reviewed two other August releases from Frontiers, King Company and Cruzh, both in very high quality – would it be naïve to hope that the third one would be of the same standard? Well, let’s push play and find out.

The title track opens the album and a blipping synth is what gushes over me like a waterfall. It’s an uptempo AOR rocker, very 80’s sounding – the year 1985 comes to mind – and even though there is a synthesizer high in the mix, so is the guitar. The chorus hits right on the spot and it sticks right away – a great way to open the record. “Cool Runnin'” comes with a nice Survivor vibe and the whole track screams soundtrack to some 80’s movie – this could easily have been in a Rocky movie or some comedy like St Elmo’s Fire. It is very AOR but at the same time it rocks – this is brilliant! “Man Behind The Gun” puts me in a time machine right back to 1986. Sound wise, the mix of guitar and synth is perfect – clean but rocking. The verse is really catchy and it helps the even catchier chorus to score the winning goal – this is AOR rock at its best. “Part Of Me” has an arrangement very close to the U.S. version of Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” topped with a Heart / Survivor like chorus. It’s a slower type of song but not quite a ballad. The melodies – both verses and refrain – are amazingly memorable and quite frankly, I smell a hit. This is fantastic! “No Exit” comes with a Whitesnake 1987 meets Def Leppard vibe with a little twist of Bon Jovi. It’s a good song, but it doesn’t go all the way for me, the chorus never lift the song enough. Good, but not great. “Matter In Hand” is an AOR power ballad, very direct and in the late 80’s, this one would have ruled the air waves – the chorus is so catchy it hurts. I’m such a sucker for song like this – when they’re done right – and in my book, this is a hit! “Path To Light” is AOR on the border to West-Coast and the whole thing is so pink and fluffy with a chorus that sounds like a massive cheese plate. But again, I grew up on stuff like this and it takes me back to my pre 20’s youth. Nostalgia? Maybe so, but I don’t care – I really dig this. Hard!

The verses in “Rules Of The Game” is total Heart in 1985, but I’m also thinking a rockier Roxette. A big power ballad with a big chorus to die for – so awesome. “She Said It’s Over” is a driven pop song that gets a bit more rocked up in the chorus – a chorus that is insanely catchy and memorable. “Stranger’s Eyes” is a bit on the softer side, almost too pop and the guitars are a bit too low in the mix but the tune works anyway, much to the fact that the chorus takes hold of my brain and refuses to let go. Finishing track “Young/Wild/Free”  has a really cliché title and lyrically it’s also a bit clichéd, but the damned thing is just so catchy, happy-go-lucky and positive that it becomes contagious and addictive and I can’t do anything but to surrender.

If you hate AOR then don’t even bother with this album because you will not change your mind about the genre and you will probably hate this album to the max because make no mistake, this is AOR all the way through. But if you love this kind of music, then this record is not to be missed because it’s a f**king brilliant record! And what makes it so brilliant is not just because of the greatness of the song writing but also that it shines through that Michael Palace loves this kind of music passionately. AOR can be good without moving me, but when there’s so much heart, soul and passion for the music, it really goes right into my guts and that is what Palace has done right here. Also, the production and the musical performances are all ace so I can’t really find anything to bitch about here. This is how you do it, folks!



1. Master Of The Universe
2. Cool Runnin’
3. Man Behind The Gun
4. Part Of Me
5. No Exit
6. Matter In Hand
7. Path To Light
8. Rules Of The Game
9. She Said It’s Over
10. Stranger’s Eyes
11. Young/Wild/Free