Producer: Daniel Flores and Michael Palace
Release date: August 26, 2016
Line-up: Michael Palace (vo, g), Rick Digorio (g), Soufian Ma’Aoui (b), Marcus Johansson (dr)
(10: A Master Piece / a future classic, 9: Superb, near perfect, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Good, 5: Average)
Palace is a new Swedish melodic rock band that was formed by lead singer and guitarist Michael Palace (ex-Big Time). Palace previously worked with the Frontiers label as a songwriter and guitarist on different projects such as First Signal and Cry Of Dawn, a collaboration that eventually led to Michael himself being offered a record deal with Frontiers by label chief Serafino Perugino. The band was then hand picked by Palace from the Stockholm area musician circuit.
Clearly a one-of-a-kind talent, the 24 year old multi-instrumentalist and songwriter reportedly single-handedly wrote these 11 tracks in just a couple of weeks time, a feat which by any standards must be seen as a major accomplishment not least considering the quality of the material at hand. I haven’t heard genuine retro AOR done this well since H.E.A.T´s 2010 platter “Freedom Rock” – which is saying a lot, since there has been a wealth of excellent AOR albums released in between those years.
For those familiar with Palace´s previous band Big Time (which also featured Palace guitarist Rick Digorio), the quality of this album will certainly not come as a surprise, as the band’s 3 song 2012 e.p was pretty much flawless melodic rock, highlighted by the fantastic AOR anthem Julia. (a song I would very much like to see re-recorded on a future Palace album). It was already evident from that point that these guys would go on to even greater things, and this new album is certainly a testament to that.
The strength of “Master Of The Universe” definitely lies in it’s consistency, with just about every song featuring an instantly likeable chorus or hook that just screams to be replayed. Even after having lived with the album for over 3 months I still find myself humming along to these tunes, surely a sign of a great and memorable album.
Highlights include the Danger Road-esque anthemic AOR rocker Master Of The Universe, the catchy and atmospheric Cool Runnin’, the supreme and powerful ballad Rules of The Game and the melodic mid tempo masterpiece Part Of Me, a song that would give 80’s Whitesnake a run for their money. Another hightpoint is the keyboard heavy and very H.E.A.T.-sounding No Exit, with great keyboard and guitar arrangements all over. Young, Wild, Free has more of a Scandi flavour to it, a bit like Da Vinci, while Matter In Hand is another killer AOR cut with a chorus to die for.
While you could certainly put the label “melodic hard rock” on most of the material here it still never gets too heavy, which is an important point from an AOR perspective. Personally I would suggest that “ballsy AOR” is a more appropriate term because of the strong pop melodies and widely use of keys, but whatever the case, the most important thing is still the songs and here Palace deliver in spades, no doubt about it.
The band have a gig at the Frontiers Rock Festival lined up in April of next year and from there on who knows what will happen. Personally I would love to see a quick follow up album, preferably with an even more pure AOR sound, which I’m sure would turn out equally if not even more fantastic. Whatever the case, “Master Of The Universe” is certainly one of the most promising debuts in a long time and an essential purchase for every melodic rocker out there.