This is the second and final time that I review anything involving Michael Kiske post-HELLOWEEN. The first was that snooze fest PLACE VENDOME, and now here we are with UNISONIC, and their sophomore album Light of Dawn, also featuring Kai Hansen, who plays guitar but really didn’t do any writing. Guess what? It shows. But let’s not play the comparisons game as it would be an insult to what both of these men accomplished not only in HELLOWEEN, but also in GAMMA RAY. Listen, I love me some Power Metal, but I can’t even call this music that. What I WILL call it is what it is: AOR on steroids. There is cheese galore, and some of the catchy stuff is so saccharine you’ll need a dentist on standby. Seriously, what the fuck happened here?
I’m gonna try to highlight some good points, though they are few. Opener “Find Shelter” has a good hook, and “Night of the Long Knives” is a very good song that warrants repeat listens. If they wrote more tunes like this I’d totally be on board. The swagger of “Not Gonna Take Anymore” is another winner, and along with “Knives” is a contender for best song of the record. This is one of the few times we get to hear the Kai Hansen we know and love. Bassist Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69) who also wrote the bulk of material and produced the album is front and center for much of “Exceptional”, however the song itself is not. It’s just OK.
One of the things that helps absolutely derail any kind of momentum on Light of Dawn is the ballads. The fucking ballads. And it’s not like there are 17 of them; there are really only three slower songs, but where they are placed had me scratching my head. “You and I” (an exercise in cheese!) and “When the Deed is Done” have no business being the second and third songs after a strong opener like “Shelter.” And a song like “Manhunter” is just silly on so many levels, from title to arrangement.
As far as closers go, “Throne of the Dawn” gets an A for effort and execution. I swear, as I listen to these songs it’s like two completely different bands from one track to the next. Case in point? “Blood”, the third slow number and a blatant attempt at winning the Euro radio audience who, let’s face it, eat this stuff up. Kiske sounds so cliché with his vibratos at the end of almost every line that it’s downright painful. And as soon as we finish that mess, here comes “For the Kingdom, “ chugging seductive riffs on the verses and full-on power for the choruses; a really good song! This also holds true for “Your Time Has Come”. The band is off to the races and clicking in every possible way, making for a very enjoyable listen.
Bottom line: I liked half this record, and HATED the other half. Unfortunately UNISONIC’S bad outweighs the good, so I think I’ll be staying away from future releases, and pretty much anything Michael Kiske has his name attached to. Man, I wish this had been an EP.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Night of the Long Knives”, “Not Gonna Take Anymore”, “For the Kingdom”, “Your Time Has Come”