Now the regular readers amongst you will know that I don’t hide my love of a certain era of rock (you know theat early/mid/late Eighties period – ideally sometime around 1987-ish). However many years go by and how many new styles of rock (or any music in general, to be honest) comes along I do tend to gravitate to those halcyon days of my musical youth (I bet you’re singing “Pass the Dutchee” right now aren’t you?). I’m not ashamed of this, I LOVE whatever the current pigeonhole de jour is for my favourite be it AOR/hair metal/glam/girly keyboard pomp. As far as I’m concerned if the songs are good, there’s melody and a certain je ne sais quoi (a sprinkle of 80s magic, curnchy guitars played with style, passion and not a little fun) … I’m in. Not only that, I still get extremely excited when someone sends me an album that should press all my buttons.
And so, dearest reader, that is how I felt when various industry associates (ooh, get me!) started the jungle drums about “Master of the Universe”, the debut album from Palace. Due for release via Frontiers Records on 26th August 2016, Palace are a young Swedish melodic hard rock band founded by lead singer and guitarist Michael Palace. The band is rounded out by Rick Digorio on guitar, Marcus Johansson on drums and Soufian Ma’Aoui on bass.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FCAIWqEags]
Despite their young age, all four members have accumulated a wealth of experience both playing live and recording in the studio with several different acts. As individuals and at times crossing paths, they have played with ADRENALINE RUSH, REACH, ERIKA, HOUSTON, FIND ME, GUTTERDÄMERUNG, BIG TIME, and MILJENKO MATIJEVIC to name a few.
Michael Palace began working with Frontiers as a songwriter and guitar player for First Signal (featuring Harry Hess), Cry of Dawn (with Goran Edman), Kryptonite (featuring Jakob Samuel) and Toby Hitchcock. The successful collaborations led to a worldwide record deal with Frontiers and the signing of his band.
With that pedigree and from the 21st Century home of home melodic rock (Sweden), what would I not love about the band and this album. Especially when the press release adds “Heavily influenced by 80’s imagery and sounds, Palace delivers massive arena rock like you’ve never heard before!”. Unfortunately for me, that is where it all leaves me in something of a quandry.
Without question these boys are mega talented as both musicians and songwriters. I have absolutely no hesitation in telling you that this is a set of fantastically well written songs and it will appeal to so many of you fine folks that have a similar desire to jump in a time machine and revert back to somewhere on Sunset Strip in 1987 – you know, those of you who say things like “they don’t make them like they used to”.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twXF_eTqkEI]
I guarantee you that, this record proves that they DO make them like they used to. Palace have done just that, four young guys who clearly have a passion for an era before their time and they have created potentially wone of the best albums that was never released in 1985. And that is where my difficulty lies. I have absolutely no problem with the era being replicated, I have already commented that this is a set of 11 songs that have been beautifully written and well crafte and the vocal performances are just the right blend of harmony for me. However, you are right if you are sensing a but …
Having listened seceral times, I think my ssue is with the overall production. The keyboard sounds, the production, the vocals, the mix of ballads, etc ar ejust too 1985 for me. I know, I know – how is that possible? The thing is, studio, instrument and other technology has moved on and in my view these boys have sold themselves a bit short by going for the full 80s treatment. Great songs will always be great (and these are, no question) but, and I’m really sorry to say it, this album just doesn’t quite float my boat the way it should.
It does, however, prove that they do make albums just like they used to
Michael Palace – Vocals, guitar
Rick Digorio – Guitar
Marcus Johansson – Drums
Soufian Ma’Aoui -Bass