In what is surely one of the most anticipated releases of 2012, ex-Helloween pals Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen are together again in Unisonic! Despite the pumpkins remaining quite productive (and as good as they’ve ever been, if you ask me), this is what seemingly everyone has been clamoring for ever since Kiske reappeared in the world of metal a few years ago. Be careful what you wish for, though, as our old friend Mike is now bald. Yikes.
First, if you’re expecting this album to be anything like the Keeper series, Gamma Ray, or even modern Helloween, you’re going to be disappointed. It would be a far stretch to call Unisonic power metal; heck, I’d say that most of the songs on here are closer to a mix of modern hard rock/AOR than anything you’ve heard from Hansen. Of course, the opening title track is a cooker, with galloping riffs and a blistering guitar solo (as you might have heard already; good marketing, leaking the best song on the album before the whole thing is released), but mostly everything else on Unisonic is mid-paced, with Kiske hogging the spotlight while avoiding many of his signature high notes. Yep, no Marches of Time for you!
That’s not to say the music is bad, mind you. It’s tight and very well-produced (as you’d hope, considering this took at least an extra year to get out than was originally planned), and if you take a handful of the songs and put them on shuffle, chances are you’ll find them very enjoyable. “Never Change Me” is my personal favorite; a fun, upbeat number with the album’s catchiest chorus, it sums up the rest of the album in four minutes pretty nicely. “Never Too Late” follows in the same vein, even though the lyrics are a bit silly (but this should be nothing new) and “We Rise” would make a great album closer (sadly, this is not the case) with its solid riffage and climactic chorus.
This album’s lack of real standout songs becomes a problem, though, about halfway through. Why? It never gets going! There are simply too many mid-tempo, straightforward rockers that are devoid of any big hooks. Taken song by song, they’re all pretty good, but it’s hard to listen to this album all the way through because there’s too much…ah, I really hate to use the word “filler,” and I hate saying “all songs sound the same” even more, but both phrases would apply here. It’s like an album full of singles with a ballad tacked on at the end; once you’ve heard the whole thing, there’s really no reason to hear it all again, except for the few tracks that might have caught your eye (or ear). In other words, there’s nothing to be discovered beyond the first couple of listens. No depth. No Easter Eggs. No lasting impressions.
I have mixed feelings about Unisonic’s debut. Michael Kiske is one of my favorite vocalists, and his performance here does nothing to change that. I really, really like a few of the songs, and they’d be in regular rotation in my music library had I bought this album. It’s professional-sounding and not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it just seems like another side project featuring Kiske’s vocals, rather than the grand reunion of two of power metal’s founding fathers. I want to love this album like you wouldn’t believe, but I just can’t give it any better than 3 stars.