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PLACE VENDOME Close To The Sun

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Monday, April 3, 2017 @ 1:06 PM


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PLACE VENDOME
Close To The Sun

Frontiers Music Srl - 2017




Before heading off on the reunited HELLOWEEN "Pumpkins Unite" tour that is likely to take up a large chunk of his time for the foreseeable future, singer Michael Kiske returned to his hired gun role as the singer for the Frontiers music project PLACE VENDOME.

The new album, Close To The Sun, finds Kiske solely in the vocalist role for the project while the actual songwriting is handled by staff writers from the Frontiers pool. This is something of a known quantity when dealing with music from the label so the fact that Kiske has little "ownership" in the material isn't a surprise. But I found that this process leads to the best and worst of having a "house style".

While there are some really good songs on here, there is also numerous examples of a kind of depressing sameness to other tracks that leave you feeling that the album never comes to full fruition.

With production chores handled by Kiske's UNISONIC bandmate Dennis Ward, the album opens with the title track. To its credit, the song is a briskly paced number that does the job of getting the listener revved up. There's a strong guitar line and solo in the song that helps amplify how good the track is.

"Welcome To The Edge" finds Kiske delivering an almost hesitant and sedate vocal performance in the main verses of the song. It's kind of an odd juxtaposition to hear him singing this way if you are only used to his more full throated and full throttle vocal style. The chorus is far more rocking in nature when the pace of the track picks up the vocals seem to flow more smoothly from the singer.

The spectre of the dreaded "filler track syndrome" begins to rear its head with the songs "Hereafter" and "Strong". The former is a fast paced track, but never shakes off a kind of cold antiseptic feeling while the latter cut is a power ballad that is pretty indistinguishable from the innumerable songs of that particular strain of songwriting.

Also, while I found "Light In The Dark" to be lyrically interesting, the execution of the finished song left something to be desired. The pathetic and pandering nature of the lyrics on "Helen", another likely well-intentioned but subpar ballad, left me wanting to scream at the songwriter to grow a pair.

The second verse on "Breathing" gives Kiske a chance to show a little personality in his vocal performance but the song is otherwise flat and the chorus is a paint by numbers example of how to do something by rote.

Thankfully, there were other songs that offset the distraction of the mediocre at best material on the album. The closing song "Distant Skies" crashes through the speakers from the start and leaves you with a final feeling of exhilaration.

I found it interesting that the two songs featuring guitar solos from ex-HELLOWEEN guitarist Kai Hansen ended up being so good, despite the fact that the solos themselves weren't all that interesting on their own. While "Across The Times" is just a flat out ball of energy, "Riding The Ghost" is not only an electrically charged track, but there was that little bit of something extra in the songcraft that makes the song one of the pieces that should be the showcase for the entire album.

Expertly crafted with the song's peaks and valley in the right places and solid solo to bridge lyrical breaks, "Yesterday Gone" is another song that seems to have more investment from all parties involved in the creation and performance of the song. Along with "Riding The Ghost", it is my favorite track on the album.

So, while a studio system may lead to getting music done in a brisk and orderly manner, it doesn't necessarily lend itself completely well to making the best collection of tracks, start to finish.

There are definite and immensely enjoyable moments on Close To The Sun, but there is also plenty of examples of songs that would be better off locked in the vaults never to see the light of day. As always, Kiske is an interesting performer but for my money, PLACE VENDOME would be far better served if he was more involved in the songwriting and only the very best material was released.

3.4 Out Of 5.0

Pick up your copy of Close To The Sun in the KNAC.COM More Store HERE.


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