Axxis - Retrolution (2017)

Although being a hard rock band since the '80s, Axxis must be the lesser known son of Germany heavy metal. They were first known with their debut album, Kingdom of the Night, which released in 1989. Along with Accept, Scorpions, Helloween, Blind Guardian, the scene is a bit too crowd for international fans to reach Axxis. I myself included. I should considered lucky as I introduced to Axxis just only in recent years. My last experiences with Bernhard Weiß (the vocalist) and friends was in their 2014 double album : Kingdom of the Night II. Those two was very fine albums for me and stay in my player list for so long. That mean the expectation to hear more in this new album is high. Retrolution, a wordplay for Retro and Revolution,  shipped out in January 2017. As the album title suggest, this should be Axxis doing what they best, a retro '80s melodic rock with  digital age revolution sounds.

A quick shout out, Retrolution is doing fine! The first track "Burn! Burn! Burn!" is simple hard rock song with catchy twang guitar riff. Axxis strongest asset is their song writings that are simply melodic and enjoyable. This song, and many incoming, are showcase of that. The second song "All My Friends Are Liars" is also excellent. The title is already creative, thus turn into memorable chorus that you might unconsciously sing out loud. Be careful not to hum this when you hang out with friends. "Dream Chaser" might started with very cliche keyboard motive, but this song represent all the trademark by Axxis. It's just a short verse and then we completely jump to the chorus, which is always sing-together-friendly. Of the more faster song, "Rock The Night" is the one with full blast and double kick drum. As for slow ballad, try "Queen Of The Wind". One of other thing best found in Axxis is the creative drum pattern. "Somebody Died At The Party" is the song that powered up with that tasty drum solo. This followed by "Heavy Metal Brother" , then the final song "Welcome To My Nightmare".

With Retrolution, I have extended my admiration for Axxis. This band simply always put out the best song written in melodic hard rock. Some new sound found in Retrolution is, there are a number of heavy pentatonic riff done with that rather country-sounds guitar. This album has definitely a significant different compared to their very previous "Kingdom of the Night II" album, that's for sure. So that is a lot of new enjoyment on this album. If you have yet listen to Axxis, this album will do for your introduction also. Come ye all heavy metal brother and welcome to my nightmare.

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

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Axxis - Retrolution (2017) 

01. Burn! Burn! Burn!
02. All My Friends Are Liars
03. Dream Chaser
04. Burn Down Your House
05. Rock The Night
06. The World Is Mine
07. Do It Better
08. Queen Of The Wind
09. Seven Devils
10. This Is My Day
11. Somebody Died At The Party
12. Heavy Metal Brother
13. Welcome To My Nightmare
14. Demons Dare To Stay [CD bonus]

    Bernhard Weiß - vocals (1988–present)
    Harry Oellers - keyboard (1988–present)
    Rob Schomaker - bass (2004–present)
    Dirk Brand - drums (2012–present)
    Stefan Weber - guitars (2015–present)


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)
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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
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