Thunder in the distance? Enjoy the sun while it's here.
Michael Kiske thinks this is very AOR. He's right. This third project release is a sumptuous soft rocking smorgasbord, 12 tracks which do exactly what you would expect and perhaps we should thank them for that. But it stores up trouble; there are so many new energised AOR bands, so many old stagers and so many projects (often put together by the excellent Sarafino at Frontiers) who are constantly giving us music they can be proud of, it's tough out there. You either have to make something radically different within the genre or sit yourself in the middle but do it better.
Guess which one Place Vendome have decided on. They almost pull off that über AOR task too, giving us tracks by Karlsson and Tolkki among others which caress us until we need a bit of breathing space; while we're in there though, it's warm and welcoming. Kiske provides the voice here and his mellifluous tones grace this music, feeling every word, selling it and changing approach for every song. He really is an asset. With him is Gunter Werno, providing honking 80s sounds, bubbling synths and plaintive piano; these are the real stars here. Oh, and Dennis Ward, the AOR maestro who fights for the crown with Denander and Del Vecchio; he produces something light and airy but chunky too, the best of sounds for the music so many love.
And the highlights come thick and fast; the title track is a ballad as big as Gareth Bale's fee but much more enjoyable, Kiske really pushing himself to sell every note and Uwe Reitenauer's six string solo a massive treat. 'Never Too Late' has energy that even Vega might envy, a bubbly fast feel and synth-enhanced chorus really persuading while the middle of 'Hold Your Love' is simply excellent, just what you want AOR to be, smooth but robust, soaring when needed and backed by a fiery solo, then add in opener 'Talk To Me', fecund in its succulence, waiting to drop little parcels of wonder on bombastic but beautiful shards of backing vocals.
Some will say "yes, but this is just AOR like we've heard before". And they'd be right. It is what has gone before, but the point here is to do it better, over the whole album, than what has preceded it. Of course, it's like trying to put a quart into a pint pot, or for Iain Duncan Smith to understand what it's like to have no money; impossible. That they've tried is impressive. That they've got close is worth shouting about. Thunder in the distance? Enjoy the sun while it's here.