Sunday, August 17, 2014

Unisonic - Light of Dawn

When Michael Kiske left Helloween (and metal) in 1993 it seemed to have caused an unbalance in the universe. Sure, Helloween had just released a ghastly album that was as far from metal as anything could be, but we at least thought he would resurface in something metal. He has the voice for metal. His vocals on the two Keeper of the Seven Keys albums were textbook metal. Those two albums alone pretty much created what would become power metal. But, instead, he removed himself from the music he was born to sing...the music he was destined for. He did some guest spots teasing us as if he would return to metal but it appeared his future in metal would be just guest performances.

However, in 2009, the planets seem to align and balance returned to the universe as Mr. Kiske decided to form a band with Dennis Ward from Pink Cream 69. Funny thing is that Kiske's replacement in Helloween  was from that very band. So Unisonic was formed and played the first onstage performances for Kiske since leaving Helloween. Then he brings in Kai Hansen, of all people, on the guitars. Could this be? Could it be that Michael Kiske is going to return to heavy metal after all? Well yes he did, folks. The first Unisonic album was the beginning of something quite incredible as we hear Kiske singing as if this was 1989 all over again. It was as if the split between Helloween, Kai Hansen, and Michael Kiske never happened. Are we in the Twilight Zone? No, this was really happening and it was beautiful. Now the question on everyone's mind was, is this a fluke or would they keep this momentum going?

Well folks, I'm happy to say that not only did they keep the momentum going, they surpassed the debut by leaps and bounds with their second full length, Light of Dawn. They teased us with an EP earlier this year so it was no secret that they were working on new material but I had no idea it would superior to the debut. As a matter of fact, the more I listen to this album, the more likely this will become one of my favorite power metal albums of the year. Then again, to call this merely power metal would be a bit inaccurate. Instead, what we have here is a fusion of power metal with arena rock with straight up heavy metal. And it doesn't stop there as there are so many dimensions to this album. Sure, there is some straight up power metal on here like the album opener, "Your Time Has Come." It is here that we see that Michael Kiske is capable of sounding better than he did 25 years ago! This song could have been on Keepers I or II. We have all the elements here: double bass, speedy riffs, neo-classical dual lead riffs, and a monster solo. And we have Mr. Kiske's amazing vocals delivery.

"For the Kingdom" was part of the EP teaser they released earlier this year and this is another power metal song that has some interesting tempos and riffs. It also has a chorus that is catchy and just outright amazing. The solo on this song is just a shred fest, as you would expect on a power metal album. "Find Shelter" is probably the third and final song on this album that would fit into the typical power metal mold. Kiske is hitting high notes that are so massive and perfectly pitched. Although not as fast and heavy as the previous two, this is an amazing power metal song with so much melody and atmosphere. But it is also full of the other components that are visible on this album. Yeah, the typical double bass and fast riffing is present. Yeah there are monster solos on this song. But there is some melodies on here that tend to go in a more arena rock direction. I won't use hard rock because nowadays that just means something totally different than it did back in the day.

Of all the songs that would not really fit into the power metal mold, "Exceptional" is one of the best. Kiske's vocal delivery goes from his lowest register to his highest in this song. The song is driven more by a quirky guitar sound looping through the song. There are some metal riffs going on and the song has pretty much the same mid paced tempo throughout but it's the melodies that are just infectious. The chorus is catchy and melodic that you can't help sing along. Towards the end when the chorus repeats to the end, Kiske hits this fucking high note in the background that is out of this world. Time has been very good to this man, yes it has. Then you have "Night of the Long Knives." This is a monster of an epic song. This may not be the heaviest metal but this is one of the best songs that Kiske has ever been involved in. It has some nice riffing and monster solos but the melodies are what drives this song. They're beautiful...that's all I can say. This is the best song on the album, hands down. You have to listen to get it, there's no other way to describe it.

"Throne of the Dawn" is a straight up metal rocker. No power metal and nothing flashy, just a kick ass metal song. Kiske is in top form, as he is with the rest of this album. The riffing is crunchy and metallic. The solos shine once again on this song. This is just fun heavy metal almost reminding me of a Gamma Ray song in places. I guess Kai had more of a hand in this one. In contrast, the band slows it down a bit on two songs here, "Blood" and the album closer, You and I." I think "Blood" is the better of the two since it's not just a slow meandering song but has some catchy melodies after a slow opening. Kiske's range is, again, on show here as the song begins with him singing some really lower register notes. He reaches a higher register on the chorus but not like some of the others on here. I'm not sure why I'm drawn to this song rather than the other but I am. Maybe it's because "You and I" just doesn't go anywhere.

So, yes, all is right with the world. We can be rest assured that Michael Kiske has returned to heavy metal where he belongs. With two albums in, it appears that Unisonic is a band that will keep gaining momentum. This album is much stronger than than the debut with better and stronger songs. If you loved the Keeper of the Seven Keys albums then you should love this because, in my eyes, this is the true follow up to the two.


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