The number of power metal boners popped when this project was announced must have been fathomable and resulted a multitude of faintings due to blood being directed away from the brain. What’s important to stress is that Kai Hansen was the final member to join the band, so Unisonic is not going to be the Keeper Part 3 that many Helloween fans were salivating over the potential prospect of.
I mentioned the title track and Souls Alive in my Ignition review. That said, both kick off the album in a hard rockin’ manner. That’s the key to enjoying this album; accepting that it is hard rock. Mandy Meyer is former Krokus, and the rhythm section are veterans from Pink Cream 69 and with Hansen only joining the band just over a year ago as of writing, the trick is upbeat, positive rock. Never Too Late might as well be called Time To Break Free Part 2, however. There’s the AOR-twang of early Gamma Ray and Pink Bubbles-era Helloween, which make sense, but the album stands up under it’s own weight fantastically.
Michael Kiske has been drawn back into metal over the last few years, and in the harder, heavier territory his voice still shines. The cat-high notes of the 80s always bothered me slightly although his German accent still penetrates the vocals. The chorus of I’ve Tried and Star Rider in particular push his vocal range way past where you think someone approaching 50 would be able to hit. He can sublimely slip into the mid-range, the Hansen-inspired lead on Never Change Me complementing his low, laid back tones. That’s not to say that any of the songs on offer are without balls; beneath each AOR melody is a hard driving guitar riff. We Rise and Sanctuary’s guitar licks interspersed with the classic gallop and crisp clean sections bring everything together in a symphony of positive energy and sing-along nostalgia.
Even the closing ballad No One Sees Me is pretty good, the sole contribution to the album from Kiske.
Unisonic won’t be the album that the Helloween fans expected. There’s no finer sense of unwarranted entitlment from this particular elitist group who expect the Kiske/Hansen combo to be at the helm, where in fact the latter’s songwriting is less prominent, partly due to his late arrival. If you wanted a Kai Hansen record, find some Gamma Ray. If you wanted a kick ass rock album with no frills and blistering guitar solos, Unisonic is essential.
You can find my Ignition EP review here: https://twaddlefishmusic.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/review-unisonic-ignition-ep/