For most metal fans of the late '80 and early '90s, the disappearance of ex-Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske from the scene was a tough pill to swallow, and it wasn't till the early 2000's that the singer would reappear once again with the occasional guest spot as well as starring roles in Place Vendome and Unisonic. Close to the Sun is Kiske's fourth release with Place Vendome, and features songwriting contributions from a stellar cast that includes Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear), Jani Liimatainen (Cain's Offering, ex-Sonata Arctica), Fabio Lione (Labyrinth, Angra, Rhapsody), Simone Mularoni (DGM), and many others. Kiske's bandmate in Unisonic Dennis Ward produced Close to the Sun, with musical contributions from Ward on bass, drummer Dirk Bruinenberg, Vanden Plas' keyboard player Gunter Werno, Pink Cream 69's Uwe Reineauer on guitars, as well as additional guitars courtesy of Alfred Koffler of Pink Cream 69, Magnus Karlsson, Michael Klein, Gus G (Ozzy, Firewind), Simone Mularoni, and Unisonic guitarists Kai Hansen and Mandy Meyer among the others.
As much as this is an 'all-star affair', in the end it needs to be backed up with strong songs, and Close to the Sun contains plenty of them. Kiske for his part is in fine form, soaring to the heavens on upbeat power metal/melodic rock tinged songs "Welcome to the Edge", "Across the Times", "Hereafter", and the rousing title cut, while putting in an emotional performance on the heart tugging "Strong". For those that thought that previous Place Vendome albums didn't rock hard enough, the band upped the ante here, songs such as "Riding the Ghost", "Light Before the Dark", and the majestic "Distant Skies" offer crunchy guitar work, acrobatic drumming, and wonderful orchestral keyboard soundscapes, each also of course packed with hooks and catchy melodies on which Kiske absolutely shines. As for those 'hooks', they are abundant, especially on the more melodic rock type fare such as "Yesterday is Gone", "Helen", and the unforgettable "Falling Star".
There's a reason why Michael Kiske was touted as the 'next big thing' back on Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, and there's no doubt he would have sat right next to Tate, Halford, Dio, and Dickinson as one of the best heavy metal singers in the world had he not decided to step away from music for all those years. Well, it's not too late, and the man can still deliver the goods, as evident by this highly enjoyable album Close to the Sun.
01.Close To The Sun
02.Welcome To The Edge
05.Across The Times
06.Riding The Ghost
07.Light Before The Dark
10.Yesterday Is Gone