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Kiske returns with a strong hard rock album - 85%

aplws, April 19th, 2012

Unisonic's self titled debut album is certainly a quality release. The album is filled with musical variety, excellent vocals, solid guitar work and several unforgettable songs. It is not an epic magnum opus, but a fresh hard rock release that just hits the mark.

Unisonic is comprised of vocalist Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween, Place Vendome), guitarist Kai Hansen (ex-Helloween, Gamma Ray), guitarist Mandy Meyer (ex-Krokus, ex-Gotthard) and bassist Dennis Ward together with drummer Kosta Zafiriou (Pink Cream 69, Place Vendome).

By looking at the names of Hansen and Kiske (who are collaborating on a full album after 24 years), one could mistakenly expect a power metal release, but Unisonic is not a metal album. There are some heavy songs on offer, but the overall sound is based on melodic hard rock with metal and AOR influences. Additionally most songs are kept rather simple with weight on the choruses, guitar solos and vocals.

The album starts with the self-titled song, which is surely the perfect opener. "Unisonic" is an up-tempo power metal number with a dose of hard rock. Heavy riffing, an addictive groove, several guitar leads and a twin guitar solo, a good chorus backed by double bass, a confident vocal performance and you have the first Unisonic classic. This is the fastest and probably the heaviest song on offer, so don't expect the rest of the album to follow this path.

"Souls Alive" sounds like a cross between hard rock and melodic metal. The song is rather mid-paced but still faster compared to other tracks. Things start with a bombastic intro backed by power metal like guitar leads and keys. The verses and chorus are owned by Kiske's melodic singing and some solid riffs. The song also contains a great guitar solo and a slow atmospheric part, with some emotional lower range vocals.

My personal favorite song is the epic "King For A Day". A slower paced hard rock track, with some heavy riffing and Kiske's flawless higher singing in the verse. The chorus is epic and sang in lower vocals by both Kiske and Hansen in the background. After the second chorus the pace becomes faster for the impressive guitar solo and slows down again for the excellent ending.

"We Rise" is another highlight and a future live classic. Heavy riffing, a crushing solo battle and a beautifully sang as well as addictive chorus provide the recipe for another Unisonic classic. We Rise can also be considered a faster song, although the tempo varies. In summary this is pure gold and reminds of Helloween's uplifting spirit, while the chorus carries a hint of Gamma Ray's Heaven Can Wait.

"My Sanctuary" is a mid-paced melodic hard rocker. The verses are filled with guitar leads and the chorus is catchy as hell and a vocal highlight, with some classic high notes by Kiske. The song also features a very fitting solo section and a slower bridge with lower vocals that will work wonders in a live setting.

"Renegade" is another stand out. It starts with a pretty heavy riff which is repeated after the choruses, the verses are much softer and the memorable chorus follows the melodic rock line. Another outstanding vocal performance and an excellent guitar solo round off the song perfectly. If you want to label it, the sound resembles a heavier Place Vendome.

"Star Rider" is another winner. It follows an atmospheric arena-rock path and harkens back to Queen. A simple and softer song, with emphasis on a bombastic chorus and Kiske's outstanding vocal performance. On the second verse and elsewhere there are choirs that will certainly remind one of Queen.

The 'Limited Edition' includes a brilliant bonus track well worth having. "Over The Rainbow" is a captivating power ballad with a truly stunning vocal performance (including some high screams). The epic ballad contains emotional guitar work, some heavier outbursts, an 80's feel and a wink to early Rainbow.

Overall, Unisonic offers a fresh sounding debut album with several noteworthy songs. Excellent instrumentation by the various veterans on board and one of Michael Kiske's most impressive vocal performances ever. The album's musical variety covering hard rock, heavy metal, AOR and ballads is another strong point. As for the bad, a few average songs and the fact that the songwriting is generally kept to the basics.

If listened as a rock album, Unisonic totally delivers. If listened as a power metal release, then it doesn't. Personally, I can't wait for a follow up.

(originally written for www.amazon.co.uk)