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Ride with the light of dawn. - 87%

hells_unicorn, September 25th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, earMUSIC (Digisleeve (deluxe edition))

Bucking expectations is not necessarily a bad thing, provided that the result surpasses them. One can obviously recount a number of truly horrendous changes in direction such as the one that Avantasia took in 2007 with The Scarecrow, or the one that Montany took just last year by morphing from a respectable power metal band to something so steeped in limp-wrist, alternative metal garbage that even In Flames wouldn't touch it. In the case of Unisonic, the band that ushered in Michael Kiske's return to the helm of a metal project after just under 2 decades of toiling behind the scenes, something a bit more incremental but definitely welcome has taken place on their sophomore LP Light Of Dawn. If the campy visuals on the album art, in all their "Adventures Of Baron Munchhausen" glory, don't suggest a return to the good old days of power metal, the music contained within will smack everybody right upside the head while shouting it to the 4 winds.

It should be noted for the record that while this is much more of a power metal album than its predecessor, being more along the lines of a hard rocking album, this does retain some of the stylistic attributes of the self-titled debut. The riff work is a good bit more nimble, stopping maybe at tad bit shy of the overt speed metal character of Helloween's 80s offerings, but resembling it at times, particularly on the faster works. It would definitely appear that Kai Hansen had a good deal more input into the songwriting on this album compared to the predecessor, because the cumulative results here, song for song, manages to find itself midway between Pink Bubbles Go Ape (had said album been a bit less schizophrenic) and Gamma Ray's Heading For Tomorrow. It's heavily chorus oriented and features Kiske at his best since his riveting performances on the first 2 Avantasia albums, but it also has a good deal of flashy guitar work, a solid battery out of the rhythm section, and even some nice occasional keyboard additives for extra flavoring.

Things kick off in territory that might lead one to assume this to be Kai Hansen's long awaited take on a sequel to the "Keepers" albums, first with a charming symphonic intro that's a tad bit flashier than what adorned said albums at their start, followed by an up tempo cooker in "Your Time Has Come" which listens like a variation on Gamma Ray's "Lust For Life" with Kiske replacing Ralf Scheepers. Similar fits of fun, riff happy power metal with a helping of speed can be heard on the album's singe "For The Kingdom" and "Find Shelter", each of which would have fit in well with recent Gamma Ray output. It's a tad bit ironic that the front man of this outfit was quoted in interviews a couple years back that he wasn't big on the idea of going back and doing just metal music, because this album does come off as one, and a lot of the music on here is at least as metallic as what Edguy was doing prior to Rocket Ride.

Having noted all of this, there are definitely some clear cases of moving a bit more in a hard rock direction at times, though interestingly enough, a lot of it ventures a bit closer to a late 80s heavy metal take on it after the mode of Twisted Sister and Tygers Of Pan Tang. "Exceptional" is pure arena fodder that just about any fan of mid-80s Accept could love, though obviously the vocal work tends to the smoother side of things. More glam-tinged, sleazy 80s goodness can also be heard in "Night Of The Long Knives" and "When The Deed Is Done", so much so that one might be tempted to muse over whether Kiske and company broke out some old Dokken and Dio albums when writing these songs. The hooks get overt almost to the point of being cliche, but are carried extremely well and are a lot of fun. It gets maybe a bit comical with a song like "Manhunter" which lyrically marries something that Hall and Oates might have written with that signature "Out In The Fields" mode of upper mid-tempo rocking, but otherwise the slower material on here doesn't drag down the outstanding power metal moments.

While it's a stretch to label this the greatest power metal album of 2014 the way some have, this is far from a boring listen, and definitely should be checked out. Those who have followed Gamma Ray will find something along the lines of the stronger moments of the early albums with Ralf Scheepers, whereas Helloween fans will find an album that embodies what Pink Bubbles Go Ape could have been had a few things been done better. For a more contemporary example, the output of former Helloween tribute band turned respectable force in the Italian power metal scene Trick Or Treat is pretty close to being synonymous to this stylistically. This is a fun, uplifting album for power metal fanatics that aren't afraid to crack a smile and enjoy life once in a while, come what may.

"Well, we put out another album. Happy yet?" - 57%

Empyreal, September 25th, 2014

Unisonic get a lot of lip service because of the obvious connection of Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen actually playing in a band together for the first time in years. The debut was basically a silly hard rock album, and it wasn't very substantial or interesting, but it had some really fucking enjoyable cuts I still go back to here and there. This one seems to be trying to branch out to more epic and serious themes, and frankly I wish they hadn't tried, as this is a much less exciting album as a result.

This album coasts by a lot on its reputation, and it sounds professional, but when you get past the hype and nostalgia it just isn't all that interesting. Kiske and Hansen both tend to sound like one-trick ponies on here, as the former pretty much just does his usual poppy and soaring vocals and the latter wings out semi-speed metal riffing, though neither one is really playing at the top of his game - they're getting older; I suppose it's to be expected.

The songs are straightforward to a fault and rely on egregious choruses to cover up the fact that there are barely any real riffs – which isn't something that always bothers me, but isn't that supposed to be what people were excited about with Hansen's involvement? What riffs we do get tend to sound rather basic and perfunctory, and it comes off like they didn't really mean it – the bouncier, rockier bits tend to sound more lively and are more present on the album overall. I guess I'm not trying to slag them too much on that point, as clearly this is a different beast than the speed metal trappings of the early Helloween material or even of early Gamma Ray.

I don't know. For a poppy hard rock album this isn't that bad I guess, and the songs can be memorable. “Your Time Has Come” is a solid opener and “For the Kingdom” sounds a little bit like old Helloween. “Night of the Long Knives” is a pretty interesting song too with its more Oriental bent. But other than that, what really is there to latch onto here? “Exceptional” is fairly blasé spandex hard rock and tracks like “Not Gonna Take Anymore” and “Find Shelter” have decent riffs ruined by awful choruses – seriously, Kiske sounds good and all, but some of these choruses are just way too exuberant for the more subdued and "serious" sounding music underneath, and it comes off as too much.

Of the two ballads on here, “Blood” stands out as it is one of the only decent Kiske ballads I've ever heard. The other one, “You and I,” is just awful, with very soggy, limp melodies. “Throne of the Dawn” has another annoying chorus and “When the Deed is Done” is pretty slow and plodding, without a really good hook to raise it up from banality. “Manhunter” tends to sound like a later era Edguy song, and it's not bad, but it's nothing you'll really need to come back to either.

The power metal genre has just moved beyond this kind of music by now. If this were a new debut album by a bunch of unknowns, it would sound promising, and maybe I'd chuck on an extra three or four points onto the score. However, from a bunch of veterans who helped create the genre, this isn't a very noteworthy or exceptional work. In the context of these guys' past classic works, this album just comes off as lackluster – while the performances are okay and the songs are tight, the album has a small scope and the songs are pretty dull and have little to do with one another.

It isn't a very inspiring listen and, while I enjoy parts of it here and there, I'm giving it a harsher score simply because I think we should expect better out of a couple of guys who helped pioneer a fucking genre than a simply decent melodic rock/metal album. This isn't bad or anything, but seriously, let's calm down a bit.

The best contemporary power metal band is back - 87%

kluseba, August 26th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, earMUSIC (Digisleeve (deluxe edition))

Two years after the outstanding self-titled debut from power metal and melodic rock supergroup Unisonic, the quintet is back in full strength with its sophomore output entitled Light Of Dawn. While many people I know didn’t appreciate the debut, it was because it focused less on power metal and more on rock accessibility. I admit that I adored this lighter style, and thought that the record featured striking anthems with great melodies and touching lyrics. Light Of Dawn is overall a little bit heavier than its predecessor, which should please the heavy and power metal fans, but the band kept its sense for great emotions, charming melodies, and moving lyrics. In my opinion, both records are equally strong, but I slightly prefer the debut because it sounded different from many genre colleagues thanks to a more AOR-inspired sound.

While the first record opened with the unforgettable and energizing “Unisonic”, Light Of Dawn kicks off just as well with the vivid “Your Time Has Come”, which sounds like it could have been among the best songs from a Helloween record out of the eighties. The band is back with melodies that touch your heart and soul, such as the liberating “Exceptional”, which could be compared to the brilliant “Never Too Late” from the previous record. Other potential single candidates include the charming retro rocker “Manhunter”, with its warm chorus, and the light and positive bonus track “Judgement Day”.

Another standout track is “Night Of The Long Knives”, which starts in a slow, subtle way before the song evolves into a mid-tempo paced tune with remarkable vocal melodies. Michael Kiske delivers one of his most varied performances ever. The song has a nostalgic touch and reminds me of commercial hard rock and heavy metal of the eighties, but this happens in a very authentic and warm way instead of feeling boring and old-fashioned. “Blood” has a similar style, and starts with harmonious acoustic guitars before the song grows emotional and vivid. Kiske philosophizes about God in this song, and I must admit that the message and the lyrics of this track really touch and inspire me. I almost forgot that I had a religious side in myself, and this song has helped to awaken it again.

Unisonic varies its approach between charming melodic rock and gripping power metal with intelligent lyrics throughout the album. If it was left to me to decide, the band members would immediately put their other involvements aside and only focus on Unisonic, because the band’s first two albums easily beat anything released by their main bands, and I consider these records to be among the greatest AOR and European power metal albums of the last few years. Light Of Dawn is a ride of pure fun with depth and a concept behind it. If you enjoyed the debut, you can expect more from this release. If you didn’t appreciate the first strike however, you may like the fact that this new album is a little bit straighter and heavier. In my opinion, the two complement each other very well, are equally fantastic, and well worth your time and money if you care for this kind of music.

Originally written for Black Wind Metal

Kiske's return to metal is sealed with this album! - 95%

mjollnir, August 17th, 2014

When Michael Kiske left Helloween (and metal) in 1993 it seemed to have caused an unbalance in the universe. Sure, Helloween had just released a ghastly album that was as far from metal as anything could be, but we at least thought he would resurface in something metal. He has the voice for metal. His vocals on the two Keeper of the Seven Keys albums were textbook metal. Those two albums alone pretty much created what would become power metal. But, instead, he removed himself from the music he was born to sing...the music he was destined for. He did some guest spots teasing us as if he would return to metal but it appeared his future in metal would be just guest performances.

However, in 2009, the planets seem to align and balance returned to the universe as Mr. Kiske decided to form a band with Dennis Ward from Pink Cream 69. Funny thing is that Kiske's replacement in Helloween was from that very band. So Unisonic was formed and played the first onstage performances for Kiske since leaving Helloween. Then he brings in Kai Hansen, of all people, on the guitars. Could this be? Could it be that Michael Kiske is going to return to heavy metal after all? Well yes he did, folks. The first Unisonic album was the beginning of something quite incredible as we hear Kiske singing as if this was 1989 all over again. It was as if the split between Helloween, Kai Hansen, and Michael Kiske never happened. Are we in the Twilight Zone? No, this was really happening and it was beautiful. Now the question on everyone's mind was, is this a fluke or would they keep this momentum going?

Well folks, I'm happy to say that not only did they keep the momentum going, they surpassed the debut by leaps and bounds with their second full length, Light of Dawn. They teased us with an EP earlier this year so it was no secret that they were working on new material but I had no idea it would superior to the debut. As a matter of fact, the more I listen to this album, the more likely this will become one of my favorite power metal albums of the year. Then again, to call this merely power metal would be a bit inaccurate. Instead, what we have here is a fusion of power metal with arena rock with straight up heavy metal. And it doesn't stop there as there are so many dimensions to this album. Sure, there is some straight up power metal on here like the album opener, "Your Time Has Come." It is here that we see that Michael Kiske is capable of sounding better than he did 25 years ago! This song could have been on Keepers I or II. We have all the elements here: double bass, speedy riffs, neo-classical dual lead riffs, and a monster solo. And we have Mr. Kiske's amazing vocals delivery.

"For the Kingdom" was part of the EP teaser they released earlier this year and this is another power metal song that has some interesting tempos and riffs. It also has a chorus that is catchy and just outright amazing. The solo on this song is just a shred fest, as you would expect on a power metal album. "Find Shelter" is probably the third and final song on this album that would fit into the typical power metal mold. Kiske is hitting high notes that are so massive and perfectly pitched. Although not as fast and heavy as the previous two, this is an amazing power metal song with so much melody and atmosphere. But it is also full of the other components that are visible on this album. Yeah, the typical double bass and fast riffing is present. Yeah there are monster solos on this song. But there is some melodies on here that tend to go in a more arena rock direction. I won't use hard rock because nowadays that just means something totally different than it did back in the day.

Of all the songs that would not really fit into the power metal mold, "Exceptional" is one of the best. Kiske's vocal delivery goes from his lowest register to his highest in this song. The song is driven more by a quirky guitar sound looping through the song. There are some metal riffs going on and the song has pretty much the same mid paced tempo throughout but it's the melodies that are just infectious. The chorus is catchy and melodic that you can't help sing along. Towards the end when the chorus repeats to the end, Kiske hits this fucking high note in the background that is out of this world. Time has been very good to this man, yes it has. Then you have "Night of the Long Knives." This is a monster of an epic song. This may not be the heaviest metal but this is one of the best songs that Kiske has ever been involved in. It has some nice riffing and monster solos but the melodies are what drives this song. They're beautiful...that's all I can say. This is the best song on the album, hands down. You have to listen to get it, there's no other way to describe it.

"Throne of the Dawn" is a straight up metal rocker. No power metal and nothing flashy, just a kick ass metal song. Kiske is in top form, as he is with the rest of this album. The riffing is crunchy and metallic. The solos shine once again on this song. This is just fun heavy metal almost reminding me of a Gamma Ray song in places. I guess Kai had more of a hand in this one. In contrast, the band slows it down a bit on two songs here, "Blood" and the album closer, You and I." I think "Blood" is the better of the two since it's not just a slow meandering song but has some catchy melodies after a slow opening. Kiske's range is, again, on show here as the song begins with him singing some really lower register notes. He reaches a higher register on the chorus but not like some of the others on here. I'm not sure why I'm drawn to this song rather than the other but I am. Maybe it's because "You and I" just doesn't go anywhere.

So, yes, all is right with the world. We can be rest assured that Michael Kiske has returned to heavy metal where he belongs. With two albums in, it appears that Unisonic is a band that will keep gaining momentum. This album is much stronger than than the debut with better and stronger songs. If you loved the Keeper of the Seven Keys albums then you should love this because, in my eyes, this is the true follow up to the two.

An amazing blend of melodic hard rock and metal - 92%

aplws, August 12th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, earMUSIC (Digisleeve (deluxe edition))

Unisonic’s second album is destined to be one of the best rock albums of 2014. It simply has all the right ingredients mixed properly in order to create a very enjoyable result.

Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween, Place Vendome) on vocals, Kai Hansen (ex-Helloween, Gamma Ray) on guitars, Mandy Meyer (Gotthard, ex-Krokus) on guitars and Dennis Ward together with Kosta Zafiriou (Pink Cream 69) on the rhythm section, manage to create a very successful mix of melodic hard rock and melodic heavy metal that will please most fans of the two genres.

“Light Of Dawn” finds Unisonic more focused and very confident. The songwriting has improved, the instrumentation is mesmerizing, there are numerous impressive alternating guitar solos and Kiske provides one of the best vocal performances of his entire career. The album oozes with energy, technical proficiency, musical diversity and contains many excellent songs.

There are three power metal songs on offer and all of them are strong, managing to harken back to the old Helloween sound of the 80’s. The most traditional of the three is the smashing and epic opener “Your Time Has Come”, which could easily fit in both Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums. The heavier “For The Kingdom” and the more progressive “Find Shelter” are outstanding songs as well and include some incredible guitar solos.

The majority of the remaining tracks fall in the melodic hard rock category. The stronger of the bunch are the epic “Night Of The Long Knives”, the up-tempo “Throne Of The Dawn” and the successful single “Exceptional”. All the aforementioned songs contain addictive choruses and outstanding vocal performances.

When the Deed Is Done” leans towards AOR but is so well written and performed that it becomes another stand out track, while the closing ballad “You and I” is the best of the slower songs.

Besides the album’s strong points there are also a few flaws that are fortunately minimal and do not detract anything from the listening experience. The slower and balladry “Blood” kind of breaks the momentum created by the previous more energetic tunes, while the softer rocker “Not Gonna Take Anymore” also feels a little out of place after the powerful For The Kingdom.

If you enjoyed Unisonic’s debut album this is a must buy and a much stronger offering. A perfect blend of hard rock and melodic metal, featuring excellent guitar work, some of the best vocals in the scene and several songs that will become future classics. This band is surely destined for greatness.

Their Time has Come! - 87%

Gintoki, August 9th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, earMUSIC (Digisleeve (deluxe edition))

Better late than never. After every other power metal band already released their new material, Unisonic finally followed. But considering Unisonic as a power metal band wouldn't do neither justice to the band nor to their audience. Their debut album was critisized by the metal scene for being too rock-oriented and this time the boys learned their lesson. "Light of Dawn" is heavier and more aggressive than it's predecessor while still containing some AOR music.

After the intro song, "Your Time Has Come" initiates the new era of Unisonic 2.0. A song that should have been released 25 years ago after the Keeper albums of Helloween. In fact I haven't heard a song that screamed Keeper III as much as this one does. It's very fast, catchy as hell and takes the listener to a trip, especially when the high-speed guitar solo kicks in.

Following this masterpiece are "Exceptional" and the song that was already known from the EP of the same title "For the Kindgom". "Exceptional" is an interesting bass-led tune by Dennis Ward which slows the tempo down a bit (but in a good way) only for "For the Kingdom" to speed it up again and showcase probably the heaviest song off the album featuring a glorious and anthemic chorus. From there on the overall tempo of the songs keeps steady in mid-low pace until the end, with few exceptions. "Throne of the Dawn" deserves a special mention for it's interesting Led Zeppelin-esque intro and its badass chorus. This is an instant live hit.

The mid-tempo rockers are decent in the worst case but overall of very good qualiti and reminiscent of the ones from the debut album, but the ballads on this one are a step up from the first disc. Especially Kiske's "Blood" deserves a special mention. For a ballad its quite melodic and catchy and spiritual and religious people are gonna be happy with the lyrics but the hardcore metal fans might be turned down by them.

This albums listens more coherently than the first one and is more enjoyable to listen in one sitting. Contrary to the first album, "Light of Dawn" has not a single bad song. Only decent songs and a lot of very good ones are here to be found with "Your Time Has Come", "Exceptional", "For the Kingdom", "Blood" and "Throne of the Dawn" being my favorites. These songs alone are worth getting the album and if you have a side for hard rock like I do you will also enjoy the other songs.

Unisonic - Light of Dawn - 100%

diana6972, August 5th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, earMUSIC (Digisleeve (deluxe edition))

Unisonic's debut album was quite sensational and put the band on the map instantly, and now the guys return tighter than ever! This album shows that Unisonic has matured, but hasn’t lost its identity. They have a well-defined brand style.

“Light of Dawn” is a masterpiece, an authority on the rock scene and through its brilliance defines just why we are all fans of Unisonic and we can’t get enough of them. Everyone has their favourites and Unisonic give everything a fan could want in this record: different songs styles with a slightly heavier approach on some tracks, that familiar guitar sound that blow your minds, crystal clear soaring vocals, great sounding drums, and a huge production that's simply majestic. But let’s face it, when Michael Kiske sings, anything recorded is going to reflect some natural beauty, right?

Venite 2.0 is the way they start an epic composition with classical notes. That’s the short intro into this big musical journey. All you hear will change into a speed/power metal song Your Time has Come, everything a speed metal fan could expect an opening track to be. It explodes and delivers all the guitars, great melodies, and Michael’s powerful voice, radiant extraordinary for its quality and range. And talking about speed songs, here’s For the Kingdom, well-known from the debut EP and another song full of energy.

We also have great songs with the driving, fast beat of the purest hard rock style: Night of the Long Knives. It grooves, it rocks, and it's very catchy. Same for Find Shelter and Manhunter. They have a sound you've come to love. When the Deed is Done is a melodic rocker with melodies flying everywhere. Evocative, wistful, and wonderfully sung with a richness rarely heard. Exceptional - this is one of my favorites. A hard rocker song that gives Michael another chance to shine with that strong, memorable vocal tone.

Oh well, Throne of the Dawn… there's something special about this one especially. It’s a metal song with great attitude. Outstanding, great riffs, and Michael delivers the song with a brilliant soulful quality in his voice. One of the best tracks from this new album. Blood is an intense and very beautiful ballad with big sentimental heartfelt lyrics complete with a lot of tasteful music playing.

You and I is an absolute monster ballad and ends the album beautifully. Michael holds real vocal power and uses his voice very well here. This song is achingly beautiful. As you might expect, combining Michael's fine vocal talent with these great musicians and producer results in something special. I could listen over and over to "Light of Dawn" without tiring.

Well, everything is said, so run to your local record store and buy "Light of Dawn". You will thank me.