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It's been four years since the last Place Vendome album, and in the mean time the core of the band have been involved in Unisonic more or less full time, as well as other projects. This seems to have meant that, just like 2009's Streets of Fire, every song on Thunder In The Distance has been written and contributed by other people, including Thomas Vikström, Timo Tolkki, Magnus Karlsson and Tommy Denander. It probably also explains why this is a somewhat softer, more AOR-tinged album than its predecessors, as front-man Michael Kiske and bassist Dennis Ward have Unisonic to satisfy their metal requirements. Indeed the albums gets off to a particularly cheerful, generic start with the first four tracks, but it eventually picks up with It Can't Rain Forever and really improves with the more mellow tracks like Heaven Lost, Break Out and Maybe Tomorrow, and a couple of more muscular rockers like My Heart Is Dying. Really though it seems having a metal outlet has watered down the Place Vendome sound a little. It's also meant recording what are pretty derivative songs lyrically, which is often the case when using outside writers, even if they are musicians of the calibre of Vikström and Karlsson. If Kiske and Ward decide to do another Place Vendome album after this, they should probably go back to writing the material themselves - the songs on Unisonic's debut are much stronger than these, even if the playing is just as good. The disc finishes far stronger than it started, and obviously it goes without saying that the men involved perform superbly throughout. Kiske sounds fantastic, and fans probably can't hear enough new material with his voice on after such prolonged periods of absence in the past, but realistically this is not the best collection of songs, even with real gems like Maybe Tomorrow, which is outstanding in every respect.
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