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Kiske/Somerville - City of Heroes
Written by Allyson Kenning   
Friday, 10 April 2015

Kiske/Somerville - CD Review
City of Heroes

City of Heroes



CD Info
Frontiers Records
12 Tracks
English Lyrics

City of Heroes is the second album from the utlra dynamic duo of Michael Kiske and Amanda Somerville, two superstar metal vocalists who combined voices back in 2010 to release a self-titled album that I wasn't aware of until I sat down to write this review.  Full disclosure here: I had no idea who Michael Kiske was until I did some research to do this piece, but upon reading a Wikipedia page about him, I discovered that I was no stranger to his work at all.  No, I am not a Helloween fan (I might have listened to one song by them, and that's it) but I have enjoyed Tobias Sammet's previous works, and Kiske figures quite strongly in them.  As a pair, these two go way back to Sammet's Avantasia projects.  As for Amanda Somerville, I knew of her initially because of Avantasia, and since hearing her for the first time on "What Kind of Love" on The Scarecrow, I have been in love with this woman's voice.  Everything she does is pretty much gold.  When I first heard of Kiske/Somerville, I was pretty stoked that she had new material coming out, and this album was high on my wish list of potential acquisitions.  And lo and behold, guess who won the bid to review it?

Set for release in the near future via Frontiers Records, City of Heroes is a great ride.  Apart from a ballad, this CD trots along at a pretty good clip; the songs are up-tempo, solidly written, and well-executed melodic metal.  The songwriting and compositions are strong and energetic.  There isn't a single track on here that is not catchy as all get-out; I don't know how they pulled that off - well, they are talented, that's how.  But it's hard to create and maintain an energetic pace without involving a even a tiny bit of filler, but somehow Kiske/Somerville did just that.  All the choruses have great hooks, and there are a lot of very memorable ones in City of Heroes.  The first two singles, "City of Heroes" and "Walk on Water" are very good examples, as are songs further along on the track listing, like "Open Your Eyes," which is one of my favourites.

There are a lot of strengths to speak of on City of Heroes. To elaborate more on the vocals, which are without a doubt the star of the show, Kiske and Somerville have an evident chemistry between them that comes through quite strongly in their exchanges.  Their voices are very complimentary to each other, too.  I don't know much about ranges in terms of who sits where on the musical scale, but it seems to me these two singers are not too far apart range-wise - the male vox isn't super deep and the female vox isn't way up there in the soprano realm - and I like that dynamic a lot on this album because it creates that sense of complimentary-ness and there is a seamless melding going on that is quite remarkable.

The guitar work on the album is really well-done as well, too.  Magnus Karlsson handles the lead guitar parts and also the keyboard work.  Also, I kudos has to go to the young woman behind the drum kit, Veronika Lukesova from Prague; she is awesome, and I love to see a woman killing it on an instrument typically dominated by males.

Accessibility is another strength this album has.  And before you all go "ooooh accessibility equals bad or pop-ish in the metal world" and get your knickers all in a knot, I thought this was a good thing.  Take it from a reviewer who has been around the block with all kinds of crap winding up in her inbox on a regular basis; accessibility that is done well, as it is in City of Heroes, is a refreshing thing.  There is a lot of doomy and gloomy metal out there that is just difficult to listen to all the time.  Lighter, more positive music can be a good thing when one is inundated with the dark and at times too-complex.  But lighter and more positive does not make this un-metal; this is totally metal - and the fact that it can go on the radio doesn't make it any less so, in my opinion.

I do have a couple of critiques I'd like to mention, however.  One is the vocal exchanges.  For instance, one singer sings the verse and another sings the chorus. This is fairly standard for dual-fronted bands, like Visions of Atlantis or Lacuna Coil.  One band, though, that does it in a unique way, is Italy's SinHeresY, who, with their vocal duo, do quicker exchanges.  For example, they might trade off on lines or even phrases, instead of verse and chorus.  It's a bit more exciting to listen to and less predictable.  Also, as Visions of Atlantis does quite well, I felt like a lot of opportunities for Kiske and Somerville to harmonize more were lost, too.  They do a bit, but nothing terribly drastic.

Overall, this was a fun album to listen to and a lot of songs have really stuck with me in my down time, which is a great sign and speaks to the catchiness factor.  I appreciate the accessibility of the songs, which, despite their not being mind-blowing opuses of epic proportions, were a genuine delight to listen to.  As a fan of Amanda Somerville, I loved her performance on City of  Heroes, and I now have a new-found admiration for Michael Kiske.  This is a smoothly produced album that I think all kinds of metal fans can easily get hooked into.

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