Top positive review
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A quality duet album with outstanding vocal performances
on 31 August 2010
The "Kiske / Somerville" project was promoted as being the melodic metal debut album of the year. While not exactly true, this is an enjoyable duet album with a lot of hooks, exceptional vocal performances and several outstanding songs.
The idea of bringing Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween, Place Vendome, Unisonic) and Amanda Somerville (Aina, Avantasia) together to form this project was conceived by the president of the record label Frontiers Records. The songwriting was assigned mainly to Mat Sinner (Primal Fear) and Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear, Allen/Lande), with further input from Sander Gommans (After Forever), Jimmy Kresic and Amanda Somerville.
The self titled debut album finds the two vocalists dueling with one another and singing together in unison, in a diverse sounding project. The music includes melodic rock tracks, melodic metal numbers, ballads, AOR moments, along with some symphonic touches as well.
Just to get things out of the way, the vocals throughout the album sound amazing, with great trade off lead passages as well as harmonized choruses. Both Kiske and Somerville give their best, delivering diverse vocal performances and working with one another as if they had sang together for years. While neither singer tries to overshadow the other, or to display his/her full range, they still manage to individually shine throughout. The instrumental portion of the album is also solid and filled with memorable guitar riffs, wonderful solos, orchestrations and great drumming by the numerous participants.
Highlights of the album include Silence, Arise, End Of The Road, Devil In Her Heart, If I Had A Wish, Don't Walk Away and Set A Fire.
The single "Silence" is a melodic power ballad with some of the most memorable vocal performances on the album. Violin backing, keyboards, guitar riffs and energetic drumming provide the backbone for both Kiske and Somerville to interchange both emotional lead vocals and harmonized choruses as well. The addition of orchestral moments together with some keyboard soloing gives us one of the stand out songs on offer.
"Arise" is a groovy hard rock number. The song includes impressive guitar riffs, squeals ala Zakk Wylde, nice bass lines, soft verses, a fitting guitar solo and an infectious chorus, carried mostly by Somerville and finished in a higher pitched mode by Kiske. This is one of the heaviest, more up-beat and more memorable moments of the album.
"End Of The Road" is a symphonic ballad done in a magnificent way. Emotional vocals, orchestral parts, some heavier outbursts and an addictive chorus provide the recipe for one of the best tracks on the album.
"If I Had A Wish" is a strong melodic metal track and another stand out song. It starts with a melodic intro and continues with catchy guitar riffs, impressive drumming, nice guitar solos and exceptionally well sang verses (but suffers a little from a somewhat uninspired chorus).
"Devil In Her Heart" includes a bombastic arrangement, a catchy double chorus, memorable guitar/keyboard solos, along with a lot of vocal transitions and trade offs. A very well done melodic rock song, which brings to mind the most impressive duets of Meta Loaf.
"Don't Walk Away" is an up-beat AOR track, which resembles the happier moments of Kiske's Place Vendome project. An uplifting tempo, Kiske's flawless higher range vocals, a catchy chorus, a simple but fitting guitar solo and you've got another good track.
"Set A Fire" is the heaviest song on offer and closes the album in a powerful way. The track is characterized by heavy guitar riffs, emotionally sang verses by Amanda, fitting backing vocals by Michael and a heavy chorus with high notes by both vocalists.
"A Thousand Suns" features Amanda on the vocal lead and it is her shining moment. Melodic guitar leads, emotionally driven verses and an outstanding harmonized chorus, provide the elements for a good but not great power ballad.
"Second Chance" is your standard mellower ballad. While nothing spectacular, the song is emotional, includes deeper lower range vocals and is a memorable offering.
The down side of the album are some weaker tracks, one of which seems rather strange as it conveys a mixed feeling of trying to be both a little heavy and mainstream at the same time. The inclusion of some generic choruses, doesn't help the weaker tracks either.
Fans of Michael Kiske, Amanda Somerville and Place Vendome will surely love this effort. Fans of Mat Sinner's and Magnus Karlsson's songwriting will also enjoy most of the songs. Hard core metal fans will probably like 2 or 3 songs and hate the rest. The majority of the album features truly great tracks, excellent musicianship and amazing vocal performances.
(This particular edition comes together with a bonus DVD. The DVD includes 2 enjoyable videos for the songs Silence and If I Had A Wish, along with a 10 minute Behind The Scenes documentary)