KISKE SOMERVILLE_City of HeroesHere we have another project band from Frontiers Records which appears to be trying to duplicate the success of the Russell Allen and Jorn Lande pairings. Like those albums, the music here is written by Magnus Karlsson, this time with the help of his Primal Fear band mate, Mat Sinner, and as usual, it walks the line between melodic power metal and radio-ready hard rock. Essentially, this is Allen/Lande with Michael Kiske and Amada Somerville standing in. How you feel about that will depend on the extent of your love for the former Helloween golden boy and the erstwhile queen of symphonic metal backing vocals (Avantasia, Aina, et al). Their eponymous debut was a pleasant enough trip through vaguely symphonic, uber melodic metal, but I’d hesitate to say it left me sitting on the edge of my steel throne of iron awaiting a follow-up, as much as I respect and admire Michael Kiske and his one-of-a-kind voice. So it was with muted expectations that I approached City of Heroes, as the point of this pairing seemed more unnecessary and tenuous on album number two.

And maybe I’m just a jaded and cranky bastard, because this is a mostly enjoyable and easily digestible dose of melodic metal executed by seasoned pros. It isn’t complicated or revolutionary, but it’s a slightly better album than the debut and shows the pair moving their sound a wee  bit further into the metalverse. The title track gets things going in the right direction with a very up-tempo tune in the vein of recent Edguy material. Mr. Kiske still has a commanding voice and though I’d be just as happy to hear him carry the whole song, Ms. Somerville sounds good too and they play off each other well enough. Tracks like “Rising Up,” “Lights Out” and “Open Your Eyes” keep the metal in place with catchy, anthemic choruses, and elsewhere, “Walk on Water” tempts the fates by treading in the same aquatic territory as Lord Jorn the Riverdancer, but it works in a vaguely Nightwish-esque way and the chorus is extra memorable. Of the several mega-ballads, “After the Night is Over” works pretty well (mostly due to Kiske’s understated but cool delivery).

There are a few missteps, but none are fatal. “Ocean of Tears” isn’t a terrible ballad by any stretch, and the odd alt-rock vibe makes it more interesting, but it isn’t the kind of tune that brings me back for more. “Run With a Dream” is too generic and dull despite a respectable chorus, and closer “Right Now” isn’t much better. The fact the weaker moments are grouped together on the back-end causes City of Heroes to go out with a qualified whimper, which is a shame since the front half is solid and catchy.


The bigger issue is the low-wattage lyrics. I get that Magnus Karlsson is writing in his second language, but the lyrics are so simplistic and unoriginal it hurts at times. I’m not asking every writer to throw the social theories of Thomas Malthus at me, but “I stole my daddy’s car only to be cool, I slammed the brakes and acted like a fool” just doesn’t butter the I-ruhn Biscuit for me.

As for the stars of the show, Michael Kiske is easily the main attraction. He’s a legend and essentially invented the entire Euro-power style of singing on those early Helloween albums. He doesn’t do the air-raid highs anymore, but he still has a strong, crystal-clear voice with loads of gravitas. I’d be more than happy for this to be a Kiske solo album and it would likely be just as good or better as such. And that brings us to Amanda Somerville. Sure, she has a great voice and can handle the kinds of hard rock and metal ditties Magnus tends to write. But she has a very industry-standard voice, utterly indistinguishable from the other female-fronted, vaguely operatic symphonic acts out there. She sounds fine counter-pointing Kiske, but so would any of the others. Would this project be better with someone more interesting and unique? I can only assume so.

Song-wise, Magnus Karlsson writes this kind of music in his sleep, and most of these could be used on a Allen/Lande album. The backing music is somewhat generic, though some of the guitar-work by Magnus and Mat Sinner is inspired. Since the focus is firmly on the vocals though, it almost seems like the music is designed to be muted anyway.

I doubt anything this collaboration ever does will rise to the level of essential listening, but this is a likeable enough confection for the times you need candy-coated melodic metal with cheese topping. At the very least, it’s a way to get Michael Kiske out there and singing again, which is always a good thing. Fluff said.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 254 kbps mp3
Label: Frontiers Records
Websites: No web presence whatsoever
Release Dates: EU: 2015.17.04 | NA: 04.21.2015

  • hubcapiv

    That is the weirdest promo pic in a long time. He was riding his motorcycle, she was at the opera…and they just happened to meet in cruise ship nightclub for the Bjorn Again show…

    Also, b00bs.

    They really missed out on a chance to not have a promo pic at all and get unicorned by AMG’s new policy.

    • Their loss!

      • Guest

        the word “bigger” in the sentence bellow the picture should have been bellow them….

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      haha… in 1994

    • Martin Knap

      the word “bigger” in the sentence bellow the picture should have been bellow them b00b5.

      • Hulksteraus

        They have a real gravity about them.

  • Juan Esteban Mendoza

    With this album I’m starting to notice that I don’t like most side projects or main bands from Avantasia singers.

    • Daniele Cerin

      You don’t like helloween, virgin steele, gamma ray, kamelot, alice cooper, scorpions, symphony x, savatage? I find it hard to believe.

      • Juan Esteban Mendoza

        Symphony X, Helloween and Alice Cooper are the only one I genuinely like. Maybe Edguy as well

    • El Lado Oscuro

      Agree… they need the inspiration only Sammet can provide

  • AnnieK13

    That was pretty much …meh. Kind of ok background music but I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen.

  • undeathvox

    That photo… looks like a hip-hop duo, add some bling to his neck and you got it.

  • Whew…that was difficult to watch. Painful actually. Metal? Maybe, I almost yodeled groceries.

    • Is it just me, or would Yodeled Groceries be a great name for a grind band?

  • brutal_sushi

    “this is a likeable enough confection for the times you need candy-coated melodic metal with cheese topping” thats enough for me! Put this on 11 and drive around with the windows down!

    • You live in a retirement community?

      • brutal_sushi

        No. But I do like to scare old people by blasting metal out my windows.

        • This one won’t scare anyone. Go get yourself some Bolt Thrower.

          • brutal_sushi

            Oh I know this won’t scare, its just super enjoyable and probably fun to listen to really load. But now that you said Bolt Thrower, Realm of Chaos will be me journey home tunes for the evening.

          • brutal_sushi

            And the whole “put this on 11” was a Spinal Tap reference, not a time of day.

          • I got that one.

          • Kronos

            >implied that SD doesn’t know Spinal Tap reference when he sees one

          • brutal_sushi

            Not saying that. My interpretation of his misunderstanding came from MY misunderstanding of his comment about me living in retirement community. PS – This WAYYYYYYY off topic!

  • Wilhelm

    Came for the boobs, stayed for kiske and left early because of the cheese

    • You like cheese, don’t lie.

      • Hulksteraus

        And this was a big chunk of aged French blue vein (except that Kiske is German).

  • RuySan

    If this was on Eurovision, i would vote for it, specially if it had pyrotechnics accompanying the performance.

    As it is, i don’t care.

  • Kronos

    Malthus is getting namedropped a lot today.

    • He’s making a major comeback.

      • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

        Comeback? He’s been here for years!

      • Monsterth Goatom

        I’ve heard about that…. Something about a sure-cure for Insomnia? Supposedly even better than the Economist.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Of course, there are some great female leads out there. When they’re good, they’re really good. I’m partial to Seven Kingdom’s Sabrina Valentine, Tristania’s Mariangela Demurtas, and Huntress’ Jill Janus (but don’t look at Jill’s picture on the Metal Archives).

    • Well obviously I had to look. And “oh my”.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Yes… Let’s just be thankful this wasn’t a pose that ended up on the cover of Bad Guys’ Bad Guynaecology.

        • Martin Knap

          that photo got under my foreskin.

    • I’d add Floor Jansen to that list. I’ve loved her voice since After Forever.

      And I wish Mariangela were on any other band other than Tristania, tremendous voice bogged down by largely boring music.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Yes, Floor’s another great artist. I liked Tristania’s Darkest White, but their back catalogue doesn’t do much for me.

  • Guest

    the word “bigger” in the sentence bellow the picture should have been bellow them!

  • Noobhammer

    Am I the only one who thinks that Kiske in that promo looks like a thinner Michael Chiklis?

  • Neb Bojer

    I enjoyed the first album and will probably pick this one up. I actually enjoy most of the stuff that Karlsson does. Sure it’s radio friendly rock but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s better than most of the stuff on the radio anyway.

    Props to Steel Druhm for reviewing this stuff. He seems like a down to earth guy surrounded by heavy metal hipsters. Keep the power metal reviews coming SD.

    • You’re totally right! It’s all hipster beards and Belgian beers around here. It’s a tough burden to bear.

      • Now I see why I didn’t make the cut for a writing position. No really, that’s my story and sticking to it.

        • Good story. Actually though, send me an email. We may be able to get you into the system.

  • I love me some good Kiske cheese but this one… I’m not so sure

  • Feeblejocks

    Pretty stupid to admit, but my first thought when I listened to the embedded track was “This is what Amaranthe would sound like if they were actually good.”
    Anyway, great review. I’m sold! TURN UP THE CHEESE!

    • While we’re admitting things, I’ll admit to coming back to this one more than I’d planed over the past week or so. The front half is really addicting in a shameful, guilty pleasure way.

      • Feeblejocks

        I don’t know about you, but there’s always room to be had on the ‘Guilty Pleasures’ playlist on my iPod.

        • Of course. Mine is labelled “Brootal Death” to throw off any suspicion.

          • Feeblejocks

            Mine is labeled “Tech. Deathcore” which does a great job of scaring away the curious of both metalhead and non varieties.