Legendary ex-Helloween team, Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen, along with Pink Cream 69 accomplice, Dennis Ward, are back at the game called rock with a new power metal and hard rock project called Unisonic. Their debut, cleverly sharing the same name, pokes fun at Kiske and Hansen’s time in Helloween, but never awakens the classic power metal beast that emerged in the mid ‘80s when the two unknowingly influenced thousands of bands. Conventional for the subgenre were soaring choruses, floating melodies, and a whole lotta harmonized guitar leads, and for Unisonic, most of that sticks, but the fundamental change lay with the inclusion of poppy chorus hooks and hard rock-type song writing that dominates the majority of the album. Nevertheless, Helloween’s softer Euro-based power metal sound, an alternative to the more aggressive, thrashy U.S. brand, has always been about catchiness, so perhaps the existing direction remains less surprising to some veteran listeners.
Despite a quasi-Helloween reunion, Unisonic falls short of expectations because it lacks the clout expected from the team primarily responsible for the magnum opera Keeper pair that put their former band on the map. Indeed, Unisonic is not Helloween, and the pounding double bass, breakneck guitar riffs, as well as innovativeness associated with early German power metal are missing from the fold. Unsurprisingly, the change in sound can be attributed to three members of Pink Cream 69, who, at one time, dabbled in the lighter side of hard rock, in addition to a former member of Krokus calling the band home. In opposition, Kiske and Hansen symbolically struggle to keep the metal torch lit with the only reminders of their presence vocals, hot guitar solos and leads, and the occasional melodious reminisce back to Euro power metal.
If taken as a smite to the established Helloween benchmark, Unisonic will turn heads and alienate listeners. But if accepted as a fun, hard rocking album full of derivative party music, the record becomes a less intrusive take on power metal culture. When the generic melodic tracks are overlooked, the album certainly has its merits--especially the first two compositions, as well as “We Rise”--though the rest unfortunately hang outside realms of metal, bridging the gap between pop and hard rock. The closer, “No One Ever Sees Me,” is notorious even among this collection of music because it treads thin ice as a largely acoustic ballad. The remaining fade into the background as a safe bet for accessibility, perfectly feasible as an attempt to capture a broader audience, which may undoubtedly be what the band, as a whole, was aiming for.
In the end, Unisonic is a solid effort if approached with an open mind. For those wanting a throwback to Helloween of vintage, archetypical sound bytes are found in scattered morsels throughout the record’s musical landscape, but, for the most part, the album doesn’t house the same kind of music. For those wanting a good time with what will likely have memorable song writing, Unisonic is highly recommended, specifically as a gateway to authentic power metal.