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 good, 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?
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Fragile Ground”, “It Can’t Rain Forever”, “Never Too Late”, “Break Out”