Michael Kiske & Amanda Somerville: Kiske Somerville (Frontier Records)
While rummaging through a local record shop I stumbled upon what I thought could be a little gem of a find that I did not know existed, this album excited me. So, without hesitation I handed over some of my hard earned money in exchange for the first collaborative effort from, in my opinion, two of the finest voice in metal; Michael Kiske and Amanda Somerville. The album opens up nicely with the pacey track Nothing Left To Say. Filled with thumping drums from Martin Schmidt (Atrocity and Leaves Eyes) and a solo from Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear and Bob Catley) that could melt your soul. Dominated by Kiske this track welcomes us into the album well. Next, the two singles released from the album: Silence and If I Had A Wish. Both undoubtedly chosen for their catchy riff, melody and anthem like lyrics. Again Kiske takes the lead for If I Had A Wish, his voice carrying the song majestically with backing from Somerville behind almost ghost like. Silence is more of what I expected from this album, a slower track with both Kiske and Somerville’s voices chiming in together forming a smooth duet, while Karlsson strums along kindly in the background with some epic orchestral strings to finish. Anthem brings on more of the same, this time with a little more power behind it, short, blunt and to the point. This track could almost be perceived as a tête-à-tête between the two vocalists as they alternate at time with some passion.
Next End Of The Road which is a particular favourite of mine; a slow beautiful ballad that opens with a magnificent symphonic backing that carries the song throughout, but the real strength in this track is the way that Kiske and Somerville complement each other, both voices smooth, flawless and at times seem intertwined as one. This track really had me thinking, why did this album not happen sooner?? Don’t Walk Away and A Thousand Suns are up next, both of which are taken right from the hands of power metal itself. Brilliant riffs and solos fall perfectly in line with Somerville who has the dominance in these tracks. These really are the only tracks, which I feel we see the full range and brilliance of these two individuals voices (which I will come on too later). A Thousand Sun’s in particular really starts to showcase what Somerville is capable of, but for me, I know it only the tip of the iceberg. This track and the next to follow definitely have reverberations on late Queensryche and at times a notable Helloween influence (Surprise!)
Coming to the final few tracks Kiske and Somerville offer us a few rocky songs in the form of Rain, One Night Burning and Devil In Her Heart. Rain, a fast paced in your face track that leaves Kiske handling the verses and Somerville taking the lead on the slightly predictable chorus. One Night Burning is another flash of what both voices have to offer when really tested, supported brilliantly by a symphonic base it’s really hard not to appreciate Schmidt’s pounding drums here. Jimmy Kresic (Voodoo Circle) keyboards follow the orchestral symphony with some quick yet soft fingers flowing seamlessly into the third single and penultimate song from the album Second Chance. Another delightful soft ballad we are offered another chance to hear Kiske and Somerville’s voices bended into one, lyrically this is the most pleasing track and seems to hold great emotion for Kiske (maybe reflecting on his religion). Again Karlsson hammers out some fine solo’s here, especially prior to the final chorus. Although short each note rings in your ear as it fades. Finally the bonus track which sums up the album fairly well, outstanding musicianship from the band, loud, thumping and this time… heavy metal Set A Fire culminates in a bruising breakdown to finish with Kiske and Somerville stretching their voices the most they do throughout the entire album, and here lies the problem I have with this album…
Musically this album is up there with some of the best album’s I have heard in a while, the musicianship is second to none. The blend of orchestral symphonies with epic riffs and breakdowns one track to beautiful ballads the next somehow works, as each track slides into another with reasonable ease. Karlsson and Schmidt especially on impressive form throughout. Sadly, what people buy this album for is to hear the voices of Kiske and Somerville unite and make us regret turning the volume up to 11 when we first play the CD, and I just didn’t get that here. Yes their voices in this album are flawless and yes when the come together (for the ballads particularly) they combine perfectly, it just all seems to easy for them… at times, lazy. Kiske and Somerville are at their best when letting everything they have out of their lungs, reaching every note from the highest to the low. During this album we only really have one opportunity to hear this, which to me is a great disappointment. I read recently that album two is on its way early 2014, so I hope for more of the same only this time a lot more oomph! Musically this album is easily 10/10 but for what this album promised and was meant to represent it lets me down a little. 7/10.