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"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.