|Place Vendome - 'Thunder In The Distance' (Frontiers Records)|
|Written by Matt Phelps|
|Wednesday, 06 November 2013 04:00|
Originally pitched as a melodic rock studio project dreamt up by Serafino Perugino (the boss of Frontiers Records) Place Vendome was the vehicle that successfully brought Michael Kiske back into hard rock territory from his self imposed acoustic exile following the acrimonious split from Helloween back in 1993. It's now about eight years since that first Place Vendome album caused more than a stir in my Kiske loving abode. A second album, 'Streets Of Fire', followed in 2009 and cemented Kiske's return to the heavier side of the fence and not long after we would see him reunite with another ex-Helloweener, Kai Hansen, in the formidable Unisonic (who also incidentally feature the talents of one Dennis Ward, Place Vendome's resident producer and bass player).
Thankfully Kiske is back for a third installment of the Place Vendome magic, working again with Dennis to create something really very special indeed. Happily 'Thunder In The Distance' doesn't meddle with the winning formula set by the first two albums. Production is once again handled by the sound wizard Ward and as was the case with 'Streets Of Fire' a variety of outside writers have provided the songs. Hardline's Alessandro Del Vecchio seems to have the lions share cornered and a thumping one-two offering gets 'Thunder In The Distance' off to a flying start. 'Talk To Me' is first to fire up the melody with Kiske's instantly recognisable tones soaring with the power and the majesty of a free flying eagle. The music itself opens up the AOR throttle and roars down the middle of the road while lyrically there are nods to a darker path, cancer. But such is the positivity of Place Vendome it's a track illuminated with the strength of humanity in the face of something sinister.
'The Power Of Music' sails effortlessly into place after the final notes of the opening track and it's hard to imagine Place Vendome being anything less than the sublime musical force they have become within the melodic rock community. Predominately hard rock but with a definite leaning to the more radio friendly side of the genre 'Thunder In The Distance' is packed with tracks that each have the potential to be a hit single. 'Never Too Late' is one of the more upbeat tunes on the album, it's always a joy to hear Michi letting loose like he does here. The sheer energy in his voice is captivating and the tune rocks hard with the best of them. A three minute burst of absolute exuberance with a never say die attitude.
'Fragile Ground' really shows its melodic rock colouring with the opening synths hinting that the Place Vendome rehearsal room has more keyboards that a Jean Michel Jarre garage sale. 'Break Out' is another AOR beauty, written by Magnus Karlsson of Primal Fear. He was the man responsible for the excellence that was 'My Guardian Angel' from 'Streets Of Fire', that should give you a little insight into how incredibly beautiful a track 'Break Out' is, certainly an album high point. 'Lost In Paradise' floats in on a rolling bassline under a delicate rain of piano notes that fall intermittently between the warm waves of Kiske's vocals. Definitely a song to get you hitting that replay button again and again. As is the monumental ballad that is 'Maybe Tomorrow', a slow beating epic that underlines why I have loved Michael's voice more than any other from day one. I could listen to this forever.
Kiske's majestic chrome pipes positively bristle with energy against a never ending backdrop of beautiful melodies and rhythms. The title track is last to lift off and soars towards the setting sun leaving us wondering whether we'll be lucky enough to have a Place Vendome 4 come our way one day. Always leave them wanting more they say and 'Thunder In The Distance' certainly leaves me wanting more. This is quite simply the AOR album of the year. Perfect performance, perfect production, 'Thunder...' stands as a jubilant feast of melody and shimmering style that is totally enjoyable from the off to the very last note. A crown jewel for sure in Frontiers Records melodic rock treasury. Absolutely stunning.