It’s hard for me to not get excited when Michael Kiske releases a new album, no matter what the project is. I loved him in HELLOWEEN, AINA, AVANTASIA, I enjoyed his singing for PLACE VENDOME, and I even liked the much-maligned SupaRed album. KISKE/SOMERVILLE, though, is a bit of a different animal. The first one was generic melodic hard rock with some hints of metal, and I really couldn’t get into it. Thus, when City of Heroes hit the queue, I went into it with lower expectations than I might have otherwise.
This album is a lot more along the lines of melodic metal than the first outing for Michael Kiske and Amanda Somerville. The music is good, but to be completely honest, it’s by the numbers. Mat Sinner throws in some great bass lines and Magnus Karlsson is a terrific guitarist who really shines during his solos. The music itself, for the most part, is very generic melodic metal and doesn’t really distinguish this album from the pack at all. Same thing for the lyrics. They’re not horrible, but they’re not much more than decent – “uninspired” maybe the best term I can come up with for them. The music and lyrics are serviceable, however, and they accomplish their purpose of providing a vehicle for Michael and Amanda to excel.
Speaking of Amanda Somerville – I do have to say that this is by far my favorite recorded performance by her. I’ve seen her live with EPICA filling in for Simone Simons in 2008 and on the AVANTASIA recorded live performances, and she’s great on those. The AVANTASIA song that she recorded and KISKE/SOMERVILLE’S eponymous debut? Not so much. She sounds pretty good on this release, though – she’s cut back on the dramatic vocal tricks and she’s singing to her strong points now, without going over the top with the operatic stuff. Am I a fan now? No, but her vocals are a nice counterpoint to Kiske, and she improves the overall quality of the release with her performance.
Michael Kiske is golden, as always. If you’re looking for his classic screams, move along. He uses the full range of his voice otherwise, with a lot of the deep and rich low end that he does so well. Kiske is a very polarizing vocalist, and it seems that people either love him or hate him, and this release is not going to change any minds either way. That said, I think he makes this release with his powerful yet not overly dramatic vocals.
This album is not a return to the classic screams of Michael Kiske, nor is it really even power metal – you’ll be more satisfied with his work in UNISONIC if that’s the type of sound you’re looking for. Is this an essential album for your collection? No. Is it an album of the year contender? Not close. However, this IS a nice showcase for Michael Kiske and Amanda Somerville’s vocal talents, and if you go into it with an open mind, you might just find that you enjoy it. I did. City of Heroes comes out April 21 via Frontiers Music.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Open Your Eyes”, “Last Goodbye”, “Rising Up”, “Breaking Neptune”