If you aren't a fan of Helloween, you might consider Michael Kiske returning to metal after over a decade of saying that he hated everything about it to be hypocritical. If you are a fan of Helloween, you probably will look at it as a simple change of mind.
So Michael Kiske has changed his mind and returned to metal...:P
Seriously though, the great Helloween vocalist has joined forces with many of the best names in the current European metal market to form what has to be considered a supergroup of sorts; the new group Unisonic. The band, which also features former Helloween and current Gamma Ray guitarist Kai Hansen, Krokus/Gotthard axeslinger Mandy Meyer and the former bottom end of Pink Cream 69 (bassist Dennis Ward and drummer Kosta Zafiriou), have just released their first effort - the self-titled release UNISONIC. As a Helloween enthusiast, as well as a fan of every single band these guys are or have been with, this seems like a home run waiting to be hit.
Sadly though, it's more like a ground rule double than a home run. There's excitement when it's first hit, but a lot of of the time you are left stranded without scoring. The biggest problem here is not any of the individual performances, but the lack of dynamics to this release. Ward, who is generally a brilliant producer, really dropped the ball on this. Most of the songs just fall flat and don't jump like anything any of these guys have done before. A prime example comes from the song "Never Too Late". This song is the closest thing on the disc to a Helloween or Gamma Ray song, but it just lays there. Kiske's vocals just don't have a ton of bite to them, and the guitars are very dulled back into the mix. The guitar thing is a recurring problem on Unisonic. Throughout the disc, there are really no big, arena rock, power metal guitar blasts to power the songs, which really renders tracks like "I've Tried" to come off a bit dull. Meyer and Hansen, two guitarists that are generally a lot more dynamic, could not have been happy with the final mix of their parts.
As for Kiske, he sounds pretty good but not great. Let's be honest here, Michael Kiske is one of the best metal vocalists ever to come out of Germany. That said though, he hasn't done a whole lot with that talent since 1993. He's still got the voice, but some of that fire seemingly burned out with those SEVEN KEYS he once sang about. He's still good as far as the skill goes, but songs like "We Rise" and "Star Rider" have more of a "that sounds good, use it" sound than that of an emotional vocal that would make these songs so much better.
PITRIFF RATING - 66/100 - The sum of the parts here could turn this into something special, but UNISONIC doesn't pack nearly the punch you would want, or expect, from a lineup of this caliber. I'd love to see this in a packed hall where the energy of a crowd would bring out a different performance, but taken from the studio, this is a fairly average, somewhat sale release.