Michael Kiske I'm sure needs no introduction to you. Helloween, SupaRed, Place Vendome as well as some famously "un-metal" solo albums all helping to set Kiske up as an icon of the rock scene. Not to mention the countless guest appearances he's made with the likes of Gamma Ray, Revolution Renaissance and Trick Or Treat to name but a few. The word legend is bandied about all too easily but Michael Kiske is one of the few worthy of such an accolade. Amanda Somerville on the other hand may not have the same level of international recognition or legions of fans like Kiske but the 31 year old vocal coach from Michigan has certainly built up an impressive resume over the years, working with acts like Edguy, Kamelot and Avantasia. As well as that she was the creative mastermind behind Aina's metal opera 'Days Of Rising Doom' on which Michael Kiske guested back in 2003. All fine reasons to explain why she was the perfect choice to take the female vocals on the dozen tracks of melody-laden hard rock that make up this debut album.
Primal Fear bassist Mat Sinner not only provides the four string thunder but also the album's production, as well as being heavily involved in the writing of a large proportion of the tracks with fellow Primal Fear band mate Magnus Karlsson. Karlsson himself is no stranger to providing a quality tune for Kiske's unique voice as he was the writer behind Place Vendome's stunning 'My Guardian Angel' from 2009's 'Streets Of Fire' album. And here on the collaboration of the decade he and Sinner dish up some equally tasty melodic delights, particularly with the opening trio of tracks that pull you into this album faster than Vince Neil pulls into a drive thru. Wasting no time in getting straight to the point 'Nothing Left To Say' sets off soaring sky high with Michael's golden tones taking the lead and Amanda flying high alongside. A fast pacing, hard rocking introduction that sees the two voices combining and complimenting each other perfectly, showcasing what these two are capable of together and getting the album off to a flying start before the piano led intro from Voodoo Circle man Jimmy Kresic heralds the arrival of the outstanding lead single 'Silence'. Having been doing the rounds since the end of August, 'Silence' is the epitome of what this album of melodic duets is all about. The fact that the promotional video for 'Silence' was filmed at the Nuernburg Opera House should give you an ideal pointer to the direction in which the album is headed, theatrical grandeur is the order of the day, powerful rock opera type stuff, with bells on.
'If I Had A Wish' takes last place in the aforementioned opening trio but is by no means lacking in stature to the previous two with as much, if not more, of the same stereotypical male/female trading of lines and melodies interwound with Sinner's rolling thunderous bass lines and Karlsson's chugging riffs building the background tension. But if I take a step outside of Kiske lovers HQ for a minute it's clear to see that accusations of it all being a little bit samey could easily be aimed at it. Kiske/Somerville may not be as musically diverse as the genius that was 'Chameleon', or as fired up and enthusiastic as the brace of 'Keeper...' albums on which Kiske made his name, but this is a whole different monster from the Helloween heyday and with pretty much two decades separating them it would unfair and of course pointless to compare them. It's also surprisingly far removed from the heavier angle of Primal Fear's approach to metal given that two of its number are responsible for the majority of the writing. But neither of those points make Kiske/Somerville a particularly bad thing, in fact quite the opposite. Like most great things in life (ie Coca-Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken) there's a formula at work and it's one that's followed without deviation or question. A formula that gives twelve tasty tracks of AOR with a subtle yet devastatingly direct delivery that lies far more in the same vein as Kiske's work with Place Vendome than any of the other bands associated with the participants on project Kiske/Somerville, hardly surprising though really is it, given that Guardian Angel connection.
Sinner's production is pretty much faultless as you'd expect but the sharpness of the guitars does though, at times, far outshine the drums. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes they sound a little flat when struggling to support the weight of the guitars and vocals and the power held there in. Yet that's just a small point and with the album being specifically written with these two outstanding vocalists in mind there's plenty of room for them both to shine and in 'Devil In Her Heart' Somerville shows unquestionably just how much life and character there is in her voice, soft warm tones to stirring, passionate climaxes she hits the mark each time easily keeping up with Michi as the two float, soar and revolve around each other as if they've been singing together for years. A little more "Evanescence" than the majority of the tracks here 'Devil In Her Heart' is one of the three songs that Amanda self penned with co writer Sander Gommans (After Forever) along with 'End Of The Road' and bonus track 'Set A Fire'.
Elsewhere tracks like 'Don't Walk Away', 'Second Chance' and 'Rain' continue to push all the buttons that us Kiske fanboys and girls love to have touched, it'll leave you unable to listen to this album without a smile on your face. A stunning debut album from beginning to end. Pure class, and to quote their opening drive "There is nothing left to say!"
One last thing to say: Kiske/Somerville is also available with a bonus DVD with the promo videos for both 'Silence' and 'If I Had A Wish' appearing alongside a 'making of' feature