14.2.17

Place Vendome - Close To The Sun (2017)

AOR is always an interesting genre to listen. The genre mostly built up on rich melodic elements, played on mid-tempo setup. There is actually a typical AOR tempo, which is not so fast but just enough. The music is usually full of spirit, fit well into movie scenes also. Michael Kiske happened to be in one of this AOR based band. Place Vendome is unique project where bassist of Pink Cream spend his alternate world creating AOR album. In this Place Vendome exactly, Michael Kiske is the lead vocal assigned by Dennis Ward. They already produced at least four studio albums so far. Close To The Sun is their latest, as their most previous is Thunder In The Distance released in 2013 with Streets of Fire and Place Vendome earlier. See, even the album titles are fanciful phrases.

Close To The Sun is the same title for the opening song. It is quite a heavy one. Melodic intro in full force are our entrance to this song. One must admit that Michael Kiske's melancholic voices is just naturally fit into this genre. The song went smoothly for long time listener, thus if you already get to know Place Vendome on their previous albums, this one sounds exactly as one of their collections. In this album, the band invited several guest guitarists, just to take up the solos. Uwe  Reitenauer is the first soloist, he is kind of "resident" guitarist as he is played in Pink Cream also. The second song is rather trivial, "Welcome To The Edge". The thing is, the chosen vocal style may take us off the guard. Just listen to the thick bass voice that open the song. Even so, the song itself is a direct continuation to the first song. A typical AOR with interesting choice of singing.

"Hereafter" is enpowered with bit of progressive metal taste. The guitarist in lead is Simone Mularoni of DGM, a progressive metal band indeed. We will then calm the storm for a while with piano ballad "Strong". Immediately after that, we back to business with "Across The Times". The intro is excellent, as if the band is never lack a powerful melody. "Riding The Ghost" is based on hard rock guitar riff. On "Light Before The Dark" a long intro brings us to the next fantasy world. This is one of my favorite on this package, well writing structure with elements of neo-classical solos by Gus G.

There is also a point in the album where things taken slower, as in "Breathing" and "Yesterday Is Gone". A power ballad with lot of character singings inside. On the last part, is "Hellen", a very vintage '80s AOR feel song.

Overall, Close To The Sun is very well written album. Though I enjoy Place Vendome very first album the most, this one may be called the second best of their discography. One thing need to caution, Close To The Sun is much more heavy, more metal than before. The addition of guest soloist could be the reason, they brutalize the song a lot. It's nice to see the band keep the quality consistent for each albums. Lastly, the two other members also deserved praises, Gunter Werno is imaginative keys player. While the drummer, Dirk Bruinenberg is doing his second Place Vendome album and successfully integrated. On top of those, this album is strongly attribute to Michael Kiske appearances.

Place Vendome - Close To The Sun (2017)
Buy it Here - Amazon

1. Close To The Sun (4:32)
2. Welcome To The Edge (4:30)
3. Hereafter (4:26)
4. Strong (4:49)
5. Across The Times (4:51)
6. Riding The Ghost (3:57)
7. Light Before The Dark (4:11)
8. Falling Star (4:50)
9. Breathing (4:43)
10. Yesterday Is Gone (4:33)
11. Helen (5:00)
12. Distant Skies (5:28)
13. Strong (Orchestral Version) (Japan Bonus Track) (3:19)

Michael Kiske - Vocals
Dennis Ward - Bass, Rhythm Guitars
Uwe Reitenauer - Rhythm Guitars in "Welcome To The Edge", "Across The Times", "Close To The Sun", "Hearafter"
Gunter Werno - Keyboards
Dirk Bruinenberg - Drums
Guitar Solos :
Michael Klein on "Yesterday Is Gone", "Distant Skies", "Strong", "Breathing".
Uwe Reitenauer on "Close To the Sun"
Alfred Koffler on "Welcome To The Edge"
Magnus Karlsson on "Falling Star"
Gus G. on "Light Beyond The Dark"
Simone Mularoni on "Hearafter"
Mandy Meyer on "Helen"
Kai Hansen on "Riding The Ghost" and "Across The Times"

Produced by Dennis Ward




Place Vendome Close To The Sun album review

25.12.16

Musicians Death in Curse of 2016

As tribute to the most recent celebrity death, George Michael on Dec 25th 2016, here a list to notable musicians who passed away in 2016. The so called Curse of 2016 included David Bowie, Nick Menza, Prince, and so on.

List of musicians, composers, celebrity deaths in 2016 :


27 December Carrie Fisher 60, actress for Princess Leia of Star War

25 December George Michael, 53, British singer (Wham!) and songwriter ("Careless Whisper", "Last Christmas") 

25 December Alexandro Choir, the Russian Red-Army choir and ensemble. Their plane crashed into Black Sea, with assumption more than 60 choir and band member reportedly on board and become victims.

24 Dec Rick Parfitt, 68, British singer, songwriter and guitarist (Status Quo), infection.

18 Dec Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99, Hungarian-born American actress (Moulin RougeTouch of EvilLili) and socialite, heart attack.

7 Dec Greg Lake, 69, English singer and musician (King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer), cancer.

5 Dec Adam Sagan, 35, American drummer (Circle II Circle, Into Eternity), lymphoma

31 July Mike Mohede, 32, Indonesian singer, heart attack.

27 July Einojuhani Rautavaara, 87, Finnish composer, complications following hip surgery

25 August Eddy Silitonga, 65, Indonesian singer.

20 August Tom Searle, 28, British musician and guitarist (Architects), cancer

28 June Scotty Moore, 84, American guitarist (Elvis Presley)

21 May Nick Menza, 51, German-born American drummer (Megadeth), heart failure.

25 April Remo Belli, 88, American drummer, developed the synthetic drumhead (Remo), complications of pneumonia.

21 April Prince, 57, American musician, songwriter and actor, Oscar (1984) and Grammy (1984, 1986, 2004, 2007) winner, accidental overdose of fentanyl.

16 March Frank Sinatra, Jr., 72, American singer (That Face!) and actor (Hollywood Homicide), heart attack

14 January Alan Rickman, 69, English actor (Harry Potter, Die Hard, Love Actually), pancreatic cancer.

10 January David Bowie, 69, English singer-songwriter, musician ("Space Oddity", "Heroes", "Starman"), and actor (Labyrinth, Zoolander), liver cancer.


5 January Pierre Boulez, 90, French composer and conductor.

12.12.16

Ultimate List of Metal Christmas Albums

Yes, they are huge list of heavy metal, hard rock, shredding guitars that jamming on the Christmas tunes! This is the (kind of) ultimate list of never-ending christmas / holiday song packed in these albums.


- Merry Axemas - A Guitar Christmas (2005) and More Guitar Christmas 
Buy it Here - Amazon
A christmas guitar instrumental songs done by the guitar heroes of our time. Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Steve Morse, Jeff Beck, Neal Schon, Steve Lukather, Zakk Wylde etc. This is a must have album for guitar maniac.


- Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Trilogy (1996-2004)
Buy it Here
Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is legend-wait-for-it-ary project that really put christmas tunes into super awesome form. TSO arranged at least three full christmas / holiday albums with guitar solos and symphonic as their forefront compositions. The albums contained their first release : Christmas Eve and Other Stories (1996), The Christmas Attic (1998), Beethoven's Last Night (2000), The Lost Christmas Eve (2004) and newer albums.



- Steve Lukather - Santa-Mental (2003)
Buy it Here
Steve Lukather and friends doing christmas album. The "friends" are : Jeff Babko, John Piere, Gregg Bissonette, Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Edgar Winter, Trevor Lukather, Simon Philips, Mike Landau etc. All packed in this creepy cover looking holiday album.



- A Proggy Christmas by the Prog World Orchestra (2012)
Buy it HERE
This is a Christmas project featuring Neal Morse , Mike Portnoy, Steve Morse, Randy George etc. This is the most proggy christmas album circulating around the world. Prepare to be blown away...


- Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2009)
Buy it HERE
Ian Anderson, well, Jethro Tull doing christmas concert. These arrangement heavily involved Ian legendary flute playing. They are folk-prog-hard-rock in it!



12.11.16

Freedom Call - Master of Light (2016)

They were described as flower metal, happy metal by audiences. Freedom Call had been in this territory ever since their first debut in 1999. Since then, the band had released nine albums, Master of Light is their latest in 2016. Master Of Light falls right between this category as well. Songs are as pompous as ever. In the meantime, Chris Bay and friends try to insert fresh elements also.

In mastering the flower metal, the album first track "Metal is for Everyone" is really  for every (flower) metal lover. The song is grander with their bold opening chorus. This tune can be line up to any Freedom Call catalog and fans will not divided between Trump or Hillary to called this their trademark. As mentioned before, the band try their best to bring new ideas. The percussion-like interlude in the middle is kind of strong idea in this effort. "Hammer of Gods" started with melodic intro, typical to their arsenal. The formula with catchy chorus line is the best way to start another boastful tune, as in "A World Beyond". For the title song "Masters of Light", the band decided to start calmly. Yet they always find a way in bringing the storm to the daylight. Another melodic intro is for "Kings Rise and Fall". "Cradle of Angels" is acoustic ballad in spirit. The remaining of the song notable to mentioned is in "Ghost Ballet". "Rock the Nation" is a flower-ed rock tune.

Master Of Light is another flowery delivery from Freedom Call. The whole package can be sing together with good old friends and beers, as all songs are design to be enjoyed in this situation. Chris Bay sings as epic as before. The guitar works is more simple compared to their "younger" years, yet sufficient to metalized everything. We still enjoy the works of two long-time friends of Freedom Call, Lars Rettkowitz in guitars and Ramy Ali in drum. Compared to their two last albums,  Master of Light is unchanged in their retorika will full of "for everyone..." words. Talking about band consistency, Freedom Call is one of that band that happy with their direction. In short, Master of Light is another touchdown continuation in Freedom Call world.

Metal Harem class : ******** eight stars out of ten

Freedom Call - Master Of Light  (2016)
Buy it Here - Amazon

1. Metal is for Everyone
2. Hammer of Gods
3. A World Beyond
4. Masters of Light
5. Kings Rise and Fall
6. Cradle of Angels
7. Emerald Skies
8. Hail the Legend
9. Ghost Ballet
10. Rock the Nation
11. Riders in the Sky
12. High Up

Chris Bay (vocals, guitars)
Ilker Ersin (bass)
Lars Rettkowitz (guitars )
Ramy Ali (drums)

5.11.16

Narnia - Narnia (2016) Album Review

There was a moment in Christian metal world where several bands co-exist together. The bands that storming this area included, Rob Rock, Impellitteri, Golden Resurrection, Divinefire, ReinXeed (although they are not really a christian metal band), further to German Pascua band. Along this cross breeding cage, there are two musicians Carl Johann Grimmark and vocalist Christian Liljegren. Both had been around the Christian metal realm with those bands mentioned above.. Taken a name from the famous C.S.Lewis novel, they found  Narnia and wanted this band to be at least three styles in their veins: progressive , neo-classical and christian metal altogether. History seen them as successful collaboration, releasing several albums that considered ground breaking in the genre : Awakening (1998) up to The Great Fall (2003). The band suddenly disbanded after T.G.F. which considered their best. A quick reunion was found in 2009 and thus born Course of a Generation (2009), but the band taking a step diverted from their previous styles and also Christian step aside as vocalist replaced by German Pascua.

For seven years later, in today 2016, Narnia reunited the two founders, C.J. Grimmark and Christian Liljegren to released their new, seventh studio album self titled Narnia. Narnia 2016 is a returned to their root, progressive christian metal full of shred guitar works. For example the first song "Reaching for the Top" the drum intro almost mimicking their song "Nothing to Lose" from T.G.F. Reaching for the Top  started up with classic four bars guitar riffs then we greet by Christian voices. The song surely set up the elements of Narnia musics : sustained string layers in background, harmony choruses and many muscular progressive power chords. "I Still Believe" is simple melodic metal that easily remember by first time listener and it is, well, very melodic. On "Thank You" the band downgrade the locomotive gears to middle tempo and allowed passenger to enjoy a solemn song that really shine Christian's vocal quality. We also have music video for "Messengers", which a strong song with creative structure, inventive guitar chords and demiurgic song writing.


In speaking about lyric, the Christianity theme is their main inspiration. However a lyrics :
".... man kinds who do you follow,
 maybe He comes tomorrow...."  - Who Do You Follow
is simple yet fit the music well.

In general, Narnia is a strong returned from the band. Song are in extremely high quality. Carl Johann is re-nown guitar virtuoso, his works in this album is in heavenly standard that will satisfy all guitar fans. Is anything, the album is also closely similar to Christian Liljgren other band, Golden Resurrection, just slightly less neo-classical compared to them. If you really into Christian melodic metal, Narnia 2016 is a definitely strong album to have. In short, this is the album for both prog metal, believers and non.

Metal Harem class ********** nine stars out of ten

Narnia - Narnia (2016)
Buy it Here - Amazon

1. Reaching for the Top
2. I Still Believe
3. On the Highest Mountain
4. Thank You
5. One Way to the Promised Land
6. Messengers
7. Who Do You Follow?
8. Moving On
9. Set the World On Fire
10. Miracle (bonus)

Christian Liljegren - lead vocals
Carl Johan Grimmark - guitars
Martine Harenstam - keyboards
Andreas Johansson - drums
Andreas Olsson - bass

2.11.16

Hammerfall - Built to Last (2016)

Not long ago as in 20 years ago, in the town of Gothenburg Hammerfall was born. They were built with tarnished catchy metal tunes. The storm of power metal had landed in the Nordic region in good form. Assembled by five grown up long haired dudes, the band invented Hector the Paladin as their band mascot and released their first album. The rest is history, HammerFall is one of band that stand the test of time, consistently delivering album in the spirit of power metal and catchy choruses. Built to Last is their tenth studio album. Almost twenty years ago when Glory to the Brave released. As I listen to this album, I find nothing differentiated them from two decades ago. Songs are full of blasting riffs, galloping beat, solitude ballads and of course the epic choruses.

Songs as "Bring It!", "Hammer High", "Dethrone And Defy" and "Stormbreaker" are extension of HammerFall collection tales about fantasy and battles. Almost every song started with newly acquired guitar riffs. Listen to "New Breed" where the power riff is just a simple pattern. As simple as that funky Japanese guy that combined Pen and Pineapple, a guitar riffs and drum's tom tom power accentuation is equal to awesome power metal catch. There are "The Sacred Vow" and "Twilight Princess" to allow some respiration time for listeners or in other word, the slower ballad tunes.

Built to Last is as ambitious as the title suggest. This album will last a long time because the construction is vigorously loud and HammerFall-ed since the first notes. An album that reflected twenty full year in hammering metal. The album resembled closely to their previous (r)Evolution album so you can got the tutti to imagine. Joacim Cans nailed this album with the same stamina we enjoyed before. His voice is unexampled in the vast universe of power metal that still last up to this album. Take a look at Hector in the front cover, he stands triumphantly on top of the keep. And that is the spirit captured in this album, ten awesome songs that will make you want to climb to the top of the roof and scream "Hammer High until I die!....."

Metal Harem class : ********** nine stars out of ten


Hammerfall - Built to Last (2016)
Buy it Here - Amazon

1. Bring It!
2. Hammer High
3. The Sacred Vow
4. Dethrone And Defy
5. Twilight Princess
6. Stormbreaker
7. Built to Last
8. The Star of Home
9. New Breed
10. Second to None

    Oscar Dronjak – rhythm guitar, lead guitar, backing vocals
    Fredrik Larsson – bass, backing vocals
    Joacim Cans – lead vocals
    Pontus Norgren – lead guitar, rhythm guitar, backing vocals
    David Wallin – drums



27.10.16

Theocracy - Ghost Ship (2016)

Ghost Ship is Theocracy's long waited third studio album. As we enlightened in 2011, Theocracy burn down the road of mediocre with their album "As the World Bleeds". It is regarded as their breakthrough, the album pulled out lots of epic progressive metal tunes. They can be heard mixing the best elements of power metal, metalcore, thrash metal all the way into one umbrella in progressive metal.  To get it even intrigue, they baptized themself as Christian metal, hence the band's name suggesting. And their Christian themes are the strong one. Ghost Ship is under heavy pressure to get the band moved on from "As the World Bleeds", and the fans wait five years for it.

The wait is certainly worth it. Ghost Ship can be listen straight out of your darkest night and still it will sounds marvelous. There are no important steer turning of styles from their past. The only minor elements missing is their reduction of symphonic metal elements. The first song is "Paper Tiger" confirmed this. Instead of doing slow symphonic build up as in their song "I AM", Paper Tiger starts immediately with drum roll followed by melodic intro. Along five minutes of this song is the elements of power-thrash and progressive metal. Having power choruses is still their biggest selling point. The transition of the 2nd song is smooth, "Ghost Ship" elevated the atmosphere into darker nuances. Once should mentioned Matt Smith's clean singing is one of the trademark in Theocracy's music. "The Wonder of It All" is their faster cut. It is a double guitar riffs, as played by their axeman Val Allen Wood and Jonathan Hinds. Both trying to repeated some monumental ideas from "As the World Bleeds".

Theocracy also fluent in creating power ballad. "Around the World and Black" is their song in moderato time marking. Which leads us to their allegro-presto songs as in "Stir the Embers" and "A Call to Arms", For their finale, it is traditionally longest song, an almost ten minutes "Easter".

Ghost Ship is an album as expected from these amazing talents. Though the album happened to not repeat the ultimate epic as in "As the World Bleeds", all songs can easily absorbed as parts of their fantastic repertoire. Fans of Dream Theater will simply familiar with all their twisted progressive arrangements. Their double guitars added bits of Megadeth also. Theocracy is pacifying all the best to created their own musics. I suggested those who never listened to Theocracy to back cataloged with "As the World Bleeds" to have the best from "Ghost Ship". For longtime fans, the embers is ready to stir!

Metal Harem class : ********* nine stars out of ten


Theocracy - Ghost Ship (2016)
Buy it Here - Amazon

1.Paper Tiger
2.Ghost Ship
3.The Wonder of It All
4.Wishing Well
5. Around the World and Back
6. Stir the Embers
7. A Call to Arms
8. Currency in a Bankrupt World
9. Castaway
10. Easter




Matt Smith-Vocals
Val Allen Wood-Lead Guitar
Jonathan Hinds-Guitar
Jared Oldham-Bass
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