After the highly promising and short appetizer in form of the well entitled “Ignition” EP, the new German Power Metal supergroup -- with ex-HELLOWEEN singer Michael Kiske, ex-HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY mastermind Kai Hansen on the guitars and some background vocals, ex-KROKUS guitar player Mandy Meyers, PINK CREAM 69 bass player Dennis Ward and finally ex-PINK CREAM 69 drummer Kosta Zafiriou -- put out a self-titled full length record. I was a little bit skeptical that this record could sound too much like a routine job in order to grab some fast cash and many critics cited that the heaviest tracks had already been used for the EP while the rest of the record would mostly contain average Hard Rock tracks and Metal ballads. That’s why I hesitated a lot to purchase this record but I finally got the chance to get the European special edition for a good price and started the album with mixed feelings.
First of all, I don’t think that the critics are right. It’s sure that the EP only contained three killers tracks plus an excellent live song from the old HELLOWEEN classic “I Want Out” but the full length record is nearly as strong and contains a lot of catchy, energizing and fresh tracks that sound very ambitious, coherent and hungry. As the last records from bands such as EDGUY, GAMMA RAY, HAMMERFALL, HELLOWEEN, SAIDIAN and all the other European Power Metal bands came as truly negative surprises, UNISONIC’s first strike is clearly one of the best European Power Metal album of the last couple of years without sounding excellent. It’s a load of fun to listen through the 11 tracks and the two bonus tracks that are each included on the European and the Japanese edition of the record. The melodic guitar riffs somewhere between passionate Hard Rock, fist rasining Heavy Metal and crystal clear Power Metal sound fresh and are well produced, the rhythm section with bass guitar and drums is inoffensive but never too boring and Michael Kiske’s vocals sound as motivated and unique as they did when he still was in HELLOWEEN 20 years ago. His voice has even matured and sounds more diversified and professional at many moments. Those who only think about high-pitched screams when they hear his name, might even be positively surprised and the man that found his path back to Metal music doesn’t give much reason to criticize him on this album.
The music really sounds as if the musicians had a lot of fun doing this project. Of course, the songs sound what you might expect them to sound like because of all these famous acts associated to the five experienced and extremely skilled musicians but this album never sounds like a routine job. The good thing is that every musician was almost equally involved in the songwriting process apart of drummer Kosta Zafiriou. Each song has its catchy moments and might even grow during the band’s live performances. I would even go as far and say that the musicians should put on hold their other bands, do a world tour in this line up and work on a second record as they easily conquered the European power metal throne with this album.
Apart of the tracks from the EP, the melodic and very positive “Never Too Late” that sounds a little bit like STYX, the slow “Star Rider” with its atmospheric eighties’ Pop influences reminding me of JOHN FARNHAM featuring an unforgettable chorus and an epic middle part reminding me of progressive QUEEN elements, the FOREIGNER influenced and rather commercial hard anthem “King For A Day,” featuring an epic chorus and a pretty solid guitar solo, and the chilling closing ballad with acoustic guitars and truly decent string passages called “No One Ever Sees Me” that focuses a lot on the vocal skills can be cited as highlights. On the other side, almost every track has its catchy parts.
In the end, UNISONIC certainly don’t reinvent a genre and turn back the clock. Even though the record is quite diversified and therefore entertaining, I somewhat miss the courage for at least one new experiment. On the other side, they still manage to sound fresh and hungry and easily beat the concurrence on this one. This album is clearly the European Power Metal highlight of the year. It’s not an exceptional record but it’s very solid and contains no filler material. If you like the bands mentioned in this review, this album is a definite must have for you.
(Online August 7, 2012)