The roots of Unisonic go back to 1987 or so; a time when Helloween was a relatively new yet mighty force in the world of heavy metal. Amongst Helloween’s ranks was an innovator (and arguably one of the pioneers) of power metal…co-guitarist Kai Hansen. Hansen performed vocal duties on the first Helloween album 1985’s Walls of Jericho (as he does today in his own band Gamma Ray) until a young Michael Kiske was recruited in 1987 to take over as lead vocalist. Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 1 was released shortly thereafter. Helloween’s initial success owed a great debt to Hansen’s dominant fretwork but it owed at least as much to the vocal talents of it’s then fresh-out-of-teenage singer Kiske as well. Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. II followed the next year with it’s successful singles Dr.Stein and I Want Out. The latter’s video received frequent Headbanger’s Ball rotation and is likely the band’s most well-known track to date.
Kai Hansen quit Helloween sometime after the tour for Keeper II and Michael would be asked to leave a few years later. (He was replaced by vocalist Andi Deris who remains in Helloween and is doing an admirable job to this day.) Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. II, probably Helloween’s defining work, would be the last time Hansen and Kiske would collaborate. Until…
…2011. Two years in the making, Unisonic consists of Michael Kiske, Mandy Meyer (guitars,) Dennis Ward (songwriter/bassist,) and Kosta Zafiriou (drums.) They are now joined by Michael’s old friend Kai and they release their self-titled debut in 2012. Longtime Helloween-fanboy JAG squeals like a little girl at a Justin Bieber show when he hears these two together once again after all these years.
The Light of Dawn:
Released on August 1st, and produced by primary songwriter/bassist Dennis Ward, Light of Dawn fulfills the promise that was a little more than hinted at on the debut.
After a short classical-type prelude (Venite 2.0) the album kicks off with a very inspired and exceedingly uplifting anthem in Your Time Has Come. This is not the type of lyricism to be found in the death or doom sub-genres of metal; it is rather what good power metal should always aspire to be: empowering. No cliched swords in the wind or hammers held high; what’s offered instead is some motivation and edification for the Right Here & Now. The downtrodden and defeated are implored to
“Find a place to dwell, some place to free your soul…far away from home, take rest to clear your mind, don’t be patronized or agonized there’s only one way up to climb…”
The single Exceptional follows and the ever-talented Michael Kiske has never sounded better. (This is the man who should have temporarily replaced Bruce Dickinson and not that turd Blaze Bayley.) Michi’s voice is in finest form and he can sing circles around anyone…half his age or not. Period. As much as I love Helloween (and Andi Deris is really good in his own right) Unisonic has now risen far above even their best work in my opinion. Again: it’s not that Helloween’s best is not great but that Unisonic is just that good. The songwriting, much of which is attributed to bassist Dennis Ward, is itself exceptional.
There is not one bad song on this whole album. In fact they just keep getting better and better until the sixth track Night of the Long Knives. …so impossibly great that they could be totally forgiven for using filler for the rest of the album. Happily they do not.
Instead of dissecting every song in detail I implore you to check out the album as a whole because Light of Dawn is the greatest thing I’ve heard all year. (Admittedly there’s been little decent competition in any heavy genre but I digress.) You can stream Light of Dawn in its entirety as a Spotify Premium subscriber. If you like what you’ve heard please pick up the double LP or the CD. The CD is available for like twelve bucks on Amazon in the States and probably has even wider distribution in the UK/EU, Australia, and the rest of the world.
For those amongst you who think the much-older-than-you-term “metal” now only defines that which is extreme and unsafe: you’ll likely find nothing unconventional, abrasive, or challenging enough for you on this album. Just head on back to Bandcamp and/or get back to your regularly-scheduled Nails or Pig Destroyer album. Nothing to see here but the very best in good traditional power metal (sans the cheese,) with well-crafted songs, vocal melodies, and good guitar solos. …and plenty of uplifting messages in the lyrics. I believe we all could use a bit of positivity in our metal from time to time. I often turn to music to bring a bit of happiness when needed instead of only raging to growled lyrics based on some fictitious brutality. There’s a place for all of it but I wouldn’t just watch horror movies either. Consider it…
There will be no flushes for Light of Dawn because it’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen and a near-masterpiece. If we here at the Toilet Ov Hell had a normal grading-scale (haha) it would easily be a 9.5/10. The album closes on a ballad with a familiar but needed message:
…now please form a a single-file line and leave my yard in an orderly manner.
Band photo courtesy of mandymeyer.ch
Logo courtesy of oktoberpromotion.com