PLACE VENDOME – Close To The Sun

Out of all the projects that Frontiers records have been responsible for, Place Vendome is probably one of the most popular. The self titled debut was originally meant to be a one-off, but it turned out so good – plus it sold well enough and got lots of critical acclaim from both reviewers and fans that a continuation was inevitable. Ex- Helloween singer Michael Kiske was hired for the job as a singer – I never thought I was going to see the day that Kiske sang AOR – while Kiske’s band buddy (today in Unisonic that is, not in 2005) Dennis Ward (Pink Cream ’69) was responsible for song writing, bass playing and production duties, but for the brilliant follow-up Streets Of Fire (2009) – the best Place Vendome album to date, in my opinion – a whole bunch of other song writers were brought in – still with Ward as a producer and bassist. That’s why it came as happy news to me when it was decided that a third release would take place in 2013,  The album was to be called Thunder In The Distance and they worked with this one like they did on the last one, Ward as producer and bass player and lots of song writers were hired. The album was good but it wasn’t as strong as the two previous ones. Fact is, Thunder In The Distance is an album I hardly listen to nowadays so I reckon it was a good album but not that interesting and the 7/10 I gave it might just be one point too many. The same approach was used for the new record, album # 4 – and this time the song writers included Simone Mularoni (DGM), Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear), Jani Liimatainen (Cain’s Offering, Sonata Artica), Fabio Lione (Eternal Idol, Rhapsody) and Michael Palace (Palace) among others.

At first, the opening title track sounded underwhelming, but lo and behold, the tune grew while listening and the second time, I found this straight forward melodic hard rocker with AOR undertones really good – a fine start, in other words. First single “Welcome To The Edge” is a good uptempo rocker with a strong melody and a chorus that sticks, but I can’t help feeling that something is missing and I can’t put my finger on what that might be. “Hereafter” – originally written and recorded by DGM – is a pop-influenced melodic rocker. The big keyboards brings symphonic rock to mind and there are progressive undertones. The song is ok, but feels unstructured and it doesn’t really lift. “Strong” is a ballad and it’s a big one. The melody is intoxicating and the huge chorus just blows me away. It also contains big choir-like backing vocals that sports a gospel vibe which is really cool and adds to the majesty of the song – this is brilliant! “Across The Times” is a brilliant little AOR pearl where the melody catches on right away and the chorus hits right where it should – and it reminds me of the debut. “Riding The Ghost” is a bit rougher –  a melodic hard rocker with some metal riffing and all would be well if the song wasn’t so forgettable, it just won’t stick at all – ok at best.

“Light Before The Dark”, just like the song before it, breaks the AOR mold a bit and this melodic rocker leans towards 70’s hard rock such as Rainbow and also contains some metal vibes. The contrast within the song does it for me – a really good one! “Falling Star” is one of my favorite tracks on the record. It’s an ultra-catchy AOR rocker that would have been a perfect fit on the brilliant Streets Of Fire. The ballad “Breathing” moves a bit out of the box with its heavier and darker arrangement, but unfortunately it doesn’t grab me. It’s not bad, but it feels a bit cavernous. I wish I could like it more, though. The second album comes to mind again in “Yesterday Is Gone”. It comes with a killer arr and a very distinct and catchy chorus – very good, indeed. “Helen” is pure AOR and strolls along in a mid-pace and doesn’t create much of stir. The song borders to a ballad and even though it has a good enough chorus, it never scores – good, but not great. The album closes with “Distant Skies”, an uptempo AOR rocker that tries to kick up some dust. It’s a decent song but the melodies and chorus just doesn’t make it all the way to the finishing line. Again, ok but not great.

For the second time in a row I have to say that I’m feeling pretty underwhelmed by this project. The album is, just like its predecessor, not bad but it contains too many fillers and leaves a bit too much to be desired. Where the songs on the two first records reaches out and grabs me, the songs on the last two just doesn’t. Because it is the songs that falters – if falter is the right word here –  here, the production is good, the musical performances are faultless and Kiske is still a fantastic singer. But where are the knock out songs, where are the hits, where are the choruses that nails themselves to the brain and refuses to leave? This is a good album but it is also an album that could – and should – have been better.

6/10

Other Place Vendome reviews:

Thunder In The Distance

Tracklist:

1. Close To The Sun
2. Welcome To The Edge
3. Hereafter
4. Strong
5. Across The Times
6. Riding The Ghost
7. Light Before The Dark
8. Falling Star
9. Breathing
10. Yesterday Is Gone
11. Helen
12. Distant Skies

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