Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Unisonic – Light of Dawn

Unisonic is the super group featuring ex-Helloween members Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen, alongside a group of equally seasoned and experienced musicians. Apart from Kiske’s involvement with Avantasia and other guest appearances, this project appears to be as close to a return to metal as he is willing to get. The first album was a mixed bag, largely due to a distinctive split between metal and non-metal songs. On their new album, Unisonic again gave us a taste with an EP, and it was an unexpected surprise. The title track of that EP, “For The Kingdom”, which also appears on this album, is essentially “Eagle Fly Free Pt. 2”. It is a fast, upbeat track that is completely reminiscent of Helloween. For that reason, Unisonic’s second album looked quite promising. Unfortunately, that track was a bit deceiving of the sound of the album.

Light of Dawn” once again features a very obvious mix of heavier metal songs and more ballad/hard rock-oriented material. Each sound comprises about half of the album, and as was the case last time, the metal songs are far superior to the non-metal tracks. Even the metal songs, however, tend to be relatively standard and unexciting. “Find Shelter” for example, can be pretty speedy in the chorus, with the use of double bass drumming and Kiske’s melodic vocals, but its chorus isn’t anything special. The rest of the song is likewise not too interesting, and it sort of leaves you scratching your head, wondering how two of the greatest musicians ever could create something so uninspired. These metal tracks take a turn for the better once “Exceptional” comes in. This song is almost like a modern Edguy track. It is built around its predictably catchy chorus, showing off the incredible vocal talents of Michael Kiske. Even though the song begins in a similar manner to the tracks before it, it is immediately clear how superior this song will be due to Kiske's vocal melodies. 

As mentioned before, the highlight of the album is "For The Kingdom", but there is also another old-school power metal track: "Your Time Has Come". Both songs are built around fast-paced riffs, melodic guitar work, soaring vocals, and catchy choruses. Much like what happened on "Exceptional", the second that both of these tracks begin, you immediately know your in for something better than the rest of the experience has been. "For The Kingdom" gets a bit tamer in the verses, but it is another opportunity for Kiske to show off his still perfect singing abilities. "Your Time Has Come" is even faster and features better guitar work than "For The Kingdom". This song shows the band at their absolute best, and reveals just how much potential they still have.

Many of the other tracks are just disappointing. “You And I” is a ballad (only two tracks into the album!) that is par for the course for power metal. Unfortunately it lacks the emotional touch of a classic like “A Tale That Wasn’t Right”. Even a track like “When The Deed Is Done”, which has some cool harmonized guitars, is ultimately quite plodding by the end of the song. The solo in the song features some flashy guitar work, but it is ultimately forgotten as it is surrounded by sub-standard songwriting. When “Not Gonna Take Anymore” comes in, the act is starting to get a bit tired. Michael Kiske will make absolutely anything sound good because of how strong his voice still is, but at a certain point, the novelty of his voice begins to wear off, simply because the songwriting continues to bore. Even when they give you an enjoyable track like "Exceptional", the band immediately returns to a ballad on the very next track! Some of the later tracks on the album are more reminiscent of the semi-enjoyable hard rock that was present on the debut, but it's just frustrating to see a band that still has the ability to make brilliant music water down their sound. 

Perhaps it is unfair to compare this band to Helloween, or to say that only the metal songs here are good. After all, these guys are over 20 years removed from Helloween, and people are obviously free to enjoy music beyond metal. The sad reality, however, is that these musicians are both famous for their work in power metal, and while they’re free to create any music they’d like together, the main reason why so many people listen to Unisonic is to try to recapture the glory that the two Keepers records delivered. I said in my review of the first Unisonic album that you can’t expect them to put out a Helloween album, but “Light of Dawn” is a complete step backwards from the debut record, and it is even further from the sound we know and love, despite having a couple of tracks that bring back that sound. There are a few great songs here, and it is worth seeking out the release for those songs alone, but it is hard to recommend sitting through the entire album.

Be sure to check out and like Unisonic on Facebook!

"For The Kingdom"
"Your Time Has Come"

Final Rating
3.25/5 or 65%. 

Written by Scott

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