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Place Vendome - Thunder In The Distance

Place Vendome
Thunder In The Distance
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein / Damian J. Cousins at 22 October 2013, 4:37 AM


There is something marvelous about getting back to something where you truly feel at home in. There are folks that call it the happy place, for me that phrase like a loon farm of straight jacket psychos, yet while deciding on a different name for that special place, I believe that this where the German melodic singer Michael Kiske naturally felt comfortable. No it is not HELLOWEEN, though I so deeply wish (sorry Andy). It could be UNISONIC, yet it has been a rather new affair. Of course not SUPARED that barely held its grounds but it is the Frontiers Records bred PLACE VENDOME with members of PINK CREAM 69, VANDEN PLAS and CONSORTIUM PROJECT. Even though I believe that both HELLOWEEN and UNISONIC are Kiske’s familiar habitats as a Metal singer, over the years, while his voice has been constantly rich and majestic, it would appear that Kiske’s common is rather in Rock, or to be exact, just a little, melodic Rock / AOR / Hard Rock. PLACE VENDOME is the utmost proof to that. Four years after the magnificence of “Streets Of Fire”, which turned my heart upside down, the grandiose lineup returns with “Thunder In The Distance”, a booming echo in the name of the late 70’s to 80’s melodic Rock outbreak. Kiske and his peers, were touched by the merits of vintage times, envisioning the nostalgic aperitifs of AIR SUPPLY, FLEETWOOD MAC, TOTO cumbered with a harder rocking edge of DOKKEN, a little WINGER, later DEF LEPPARD and STEELHEART.

Honestly, I had a weird feeling, at least prior to when I received the promo for this album, that PLACE VENDOME were all but gone for good, especially since Kiske and Kai Hansen formed UNISONIC just a little after “Streets Of Fire” was released. However, a project is named as such for a reason, to get back to after a while without too much of telling about it. Now that their back with “Thunder In The Distance”, there has been a shift in the machine’s gear upon reliving the classic memories of old Rock. While preserving the treasures that made “Streets Of Fire”, which is mostly the emotive sense of the songs and of course Kiske’s amazing vocal performance, “Thunder In The Distance” apparently is a step forward, signaling this project’s commercialization process while sharing a few hints from the previous albums. Don’t worry about it, I am sure that MTV won’t bear notice to this one just yet, however, it looked rather clear to me that the main goal of this album was to put up ultra-catchy melodic Rock anthems, with a few stadium Rock and vintage attributes.

Aside from Dennis Ward’s high production values, which have been proving themselves to be perfect time after time, the material generated a sweetened kind of vibe, smoothness, clasping emotions, yet also a reek of cheesiness as it began to itch a bit. Several of the tracks, riff wise, reminded me of earlier songs, general song ideas are simple without straying into the unknown as expected, obviousness right in front of you. However, it wasn’t a bad thing at all. “Thunder In The Distance” proved itself to be an album that is beyond passing the time, it is an event to remember your own past, whether deeds or things that your regret on not doing. This is where the title comes accurate. As for the music, a simplified AOR / Hard Rock riffery, extraordinary and easy to listen, by Dennis Ward while his PINK CREAM 69 band mate, Uwe Reitenauer, splashing with classy lead guitar licks and royal soloing that mesmerized my senses. Gunter Werno’s keyboards handling is profound while Dirk Bruineberg  on the skins is just what this project needed when it comes to a modern Rock drummer.

“It Can't Rain Forever” is an ultimate heart piercer, a mixture between a FLEETWOOD MAC hit to an everyday Eurovision rockabilly. Other than Kiske’s usual main vocals mastery, the backing vocals on the chorus made the trick, enhancing the feel out of the song. Again I will declare that Kiske is a master of Rock and Reitenauer is a driving force behind the soloing effort. This number indicates the importance of a strong frontman for the formation of the ultimate Rock hit, and as a frontman myself, I saw the point right there though I have always been a riff freak. “Broken Dreams” has a that modern affiliation to its notes with a little PINK CREAM 69 and EVIDENCE ONE, one of the heaviest on the album. “Lost In Paradise” and “Heaven Lost” establishing an AORish front, sharing several attributes of FRONTLINE and CRYSTAL BALL, charming pieces of work with uplifting vocal works. Essentially, I am positive that you would find yourself within the sea of clarity that this album is leading, be sure to set your head straight that this is a Rock album, and be prepared for glory.


I don’t even know where to begin with this new PLACE VENDOME CD, “Thunder In The Distance”. I know that it’s supposed to be like classic AOR, but I just can’t imagine that in 2013 people would want to write this stuff intentionally. The songwriting for this album was provided by Magnus Karlsson (PRIMAL FEAR), Timo Tolkki (ex-STRATOVARIUS), Alessandro Del Vecchio (HARDLINE), Tommy Denander (RADIOACTIVE), Roberto Tiranti and Andrea Cantarelli (LABYRINTH), Sören Kronqvist (SUNSTORM) and Brett Jones. An impressive cast of characters, I suppose, but again, I’m still trying to figure out why.

The songs are like an amalgamation of BAD ENGLISH, VIXEN, DANGER DANGER, and at times a heavier AIR SUPPLY. I will say that Michael Kiske’s vocals are fine throughout, though. “Thunder In the Distance” really is a tale of two halves, with the first several tracks being utterly forgettable, and some gems in the latter half. So let’s get what I didn’t like out of the way first, shall we? Opener “Talk to Me” pretty much follows the 80’s guitar/synth pop blueprint note for note, and “Power of Music” is just downright silly. “Lost In Paradise” sounds like something Dream Theater rejected, and despite its speed and riffs, “Broken Wings” falls utterly short, getting mired in a sea of clichés. At this point I was starting to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

Then, something funny happened. “It Can’t Rain Forever”, despite doing its best to sound like CHER's “If I Could Turn Back Time” is actually one of the good ones. That could be because I’m a big CHER fan, who knows. All I know is it was stuck in my head for some time afterward. “Fragile Ground” is another winner because it uses the keyboards to provide a great atmosphere without overdoing them and guitarist Uwe Reitenauer really lets fly with one hell of a solo, knowing when to go off and when to pull back. I was thinking that “Hold Your Love” wasn’t gonna be very good at the start but was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. “Never Too Late” has the distinction of being the heaviest tune on the disc, and is also pretty, pretty good. I truly enjoyed “Break Out”, and at the risk of sounding cliché myself, I found it rather uplifting. Meanwhile “My Heart Is Dying” and “Heaven Lost” were ok, not great, but “Maybe Tomorrow” is just plain bad. I’m a ballad guy, but this one was a struggle to get through. Closing things out is the title track, which is also one of the album’s better songs.

As a fan of Michael Kiske’s voice I really had high hopes for this PLACE VENDOME album, and I wish I could score it higher, but I am nothing if not totally honest. So putting it frankly, “Thunder In the Distance” is ok, but not great. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself; you might see something I didn’t, right?


3 Star Rating

1. Talk To Me
2. Power Of Music
3. Broken Wings
4. Lost In Paradise
5. It Can't Rain Forever
6. Fragile Ground
7. Hold Your Love
8. Never Too Late
9. Heaven Lost
10. My Heart Is Dying
11. Breakout
12. Maybe Tomorrow
13. Thunder In The Distance
Michael Kiske - Lead Vocals
Dennis Ward - Bass, Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Dirk Bruineberg - Drums
Gunter Werno - Keyboards
Uwe Reitenauer - Lead Guitar
Record Label: Frontiers Records / Sleaszy Rider Records


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Edited 01 December 2022

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