Place Vendome - Close to the Sun

Place Vendome Close to the Sun cover
Place Vendome
Close to the Sun
Frontiers Music Srl
Place Vendome started more than a decade ago as a project that was meant to showcase Michael Kiske’s voice in a melodic rock backdrop, since – even then Michi wasn’t 100% convinced about his return to metal, fast-forward a dozen years and he’s even back in Helloween on some capacity! How times change and how time flies…
Now… since all these projects had varying contributors, it could be commonly agreed that the first two were pretty good light rock/melodic rock compilations of songs... the third felt like an un-necessary but not terrible addition, while the current one feels like an attempt to make things more contemporary. A less edited Kiske, in a more modern context, is different… it’s not terrible, but it’s close to his collaborative albums with Mrs Sommerville, than anything else.
“Close to the Sun” is a typical as any opener, a melodic rocker that dwells on metal territory written by DGM’s Simone Mularoni.
“Welcome to the Edge” is the album’s single, but for some odd reason it has a very deeply sung verse that is quite odd and a brilliant chorus; If only the low sung verse was a bit more “normally” sung, instead of that very laid back delivery, I would have probably absolutely loved it. Now that “verse” makes me cringe a bit. This one was contributed from Jani Liimatainen (Cain’s Offering, ex-Sonata Arctica).
“Hereafter” is a nice DGM song that gets the Kiske treatment and he does a very good job, overall, giving his own slant on it.
Alessandro Del Vecchio offered “Strong”, a rather nice slower song, semi-ballad, that fits Michi’s voice almost perfectly and sounds positively epic and not cheesy at all.
“Across the Times” is another Mularoni composition, led by a neat melody, but not really shining until the bridge/chorus hit home with an awkward familiarity.
“Riding the Ghost” is a combined effort from Olaf Thorsten of Labyrinth and Rhapsody, Angra, Eternal Idol man, Fabio Lione. It’s not bad at all, although it seems indecisive of whether it should rock out or dwell in atmospheric territory, so it chooses to do both… maybe that ghost has a split personality or something!
“Light Before the Dark”, a song by Palace’s (also Skylander) Michael Palace, begins with melodies that seem lifted from some Priest record, but then goes into a mid-tempo blabber that makes it lose its end. Kiske tries, but can’t make the sun rise quick enough, despite a few nice moments.
“Falling Star” is Magnus Karlsson’s (Primal Fear) offering, (and I must say I was half expecting his name to pop in the credits somewhere as his absence was conspicuous); it’s not a bad track, going for a more melodic style, which works quite nicely with Kiske offering a smooth but confident delivery on this one gliding through the notes with ease.
Aldo LoNobile (Secret Sphere’s guitarist) mailed in “Breathing”, a dramatic, cascading and rather simple number that Michi helps take flight with a really great performance.
“Yesterday is Gone” (for real?) is another Del Vecchio number, and it sure enough begins with some typical string and piano, not really scoring much until the chorus, which unfortunately doesn’t have enough staying power or pizzazz… sorry.
“Helen” is the second entry from Thorsten/Lione and after a typical intro it has a cool as guitar theme that’s interrupted by an airy – maybe a bit too breathy Kiske, until he goes for his comfort zone, which is a bit higher… where the whole song comes together; not bad and stands on its own rather well I guess, but in the sequence of many slower dramatic songs, it sort of begins to tire a bit, which is a pity as it’s much better for instance than its predecessor.
“Distant Skies” (no Strato cover) is another LoNobile composition and beside a neat riff and some interesting Kiske vocal lines, feels a little too predictable and uneventful.
Many of the contributors, along with people like Gus G. and Kai Hansen among others contribute guitar solos in a variety of songs, it should be noted, which I guess is an interesting piece of info, but none of them manages to overturn my overall impression, which is that with the exception of the odd song here or there, this is another unexpected and while not unwelcome, definitely not terribly exciting chapter in the Place Vendome ongoing saga. Michi is good old Michi; does what he does best, but overall it feels like a case of too many cooks in one kitchen… a little confusing on the palette.