Album Reviews

The Unity – Rise Review

Released By: Steamhammer/SPV

Release Date: September 14, 2018

Genre: Melodic Metal

Links: https://www.unity-rocks.com/

 

Line Up:

Gianbattista Manenti – Vocals

Henjo Richter – Guitars

Stefan Ellerhorst – Guitars

Jogi Sweers – Bass

Sascha Onnen – Keyboards

Michael Ehré – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Revenge

2. Betrayal

3. You Got Me Wrong

4. The Storm

5. Road to Nowhere

6. Welcome Home

7. All That is Real

8. No Hero

9. The Willow Tree

10. Above Everything

11. Children of the Light

12. Better Day

13. L.I.F.E.

 

It can be interesting to see what happens when members of big-name bands are given a chance to spread out and try something else for a while, either because the band is on hiatus or taking an extended break between albums. One recent example of this is German melodic metal band The Unity, formed in 2016, with Gamma Ray leader Kai Hansen busy reuniting with his former band Helloween, allowing for relatively new drummer Michael Ehré and longtime guitarist Henjo Richter to join a new band. The rest of the lineup features four members from the long-defunct hard rock/melodic metal band Love.Might.Kill, who was a pretty solid band in their own right. With such a strong pedigree, The Unity showed promise right out of the gate, and their self-titled debut impressed many when it released in 2017. Personally, I missed out on it at the time, but I have since checked out some songs from it and found it to be quite enjoyable, so I was interested to see if the band could keep the momentum going for the follow-up. Well, almost a year and a half later, their sophomore effort, Rise, is set for release, and it is another killer, containing 12 excellent songs, which offer up a ton of variety, while each being consistently entertaining in their own way.

The first thing that has to be addressed, for new listeners, is the musical direction on Rise. Anyone expecting a pure, classic power metal sound in the style of Gamma Ray is probably better off looking elsewhere, as while that does show up in bursts, it’s certainly not the main focus on this release, or for the band in general. In fact, for the most part, the music here can be described as a logical follow up to what Love.Might.Kill had been doing on their two full-length albums, and many of the songs on this album sound more comparable to modern hard rock like the past few Kissin’ Dynamite releases, than to any kind of power metal. Everything is executed wonderfully, though, with some hard hitting, classic sounding guitar riffs, mixed with some more modernized keyboard melodies and some strong vocal melodies. There’s definitely a classic feel to the guitar sound at times, but many of the tracks have a more modern hard rock/melodic metal vibe to them, with a few even being rather radio-friendly, while others hit a bit harder, without losing the melodies or catchy choruses. This is a very vocal driven album overall, though every musician in the band has given a great performance, as expected, with both guitarists keyboardist Sascha Onnen, in particular, being given plenty of chances to shine. Songwriting is quite varied, with a couple of speedy tracks that come close to power metal, while having some slight modern hard rock twists to them, some tracks that almost come close to radio rock territory, one ballad, and a bunch of nicely paced, heavy but suitably catchy and relaxing melodic metal numbers. It’s the latter that dominates the album, and the band excels at them, for sure.

It had been a while since I had last heard anything by Love.Might.Kill, and I didn’t check the full lineup before playing the album for the first time, so initially, I felt vocalist Gianbattista Manenti would be a perfect fit for a melodic rock band, so when I looked up the full band info and discovered his identity, I wasn’t surprised in the least. He has a very smooth voice, which excels during the melodic portions, but he can also sing with a ton of grit and power, with a very deep voice that works perfectly for a hard rock or heavy metal sound. He especially excels during the slower tracks, though he still sounds great on the few power metal portions as well, and simply does a great job throughout the album, being one of the band’s biggest assets.

One of the biggest strengths of Rise is in its songwriting, as it manages to be varied enough to constantly keep the listener guessing as to what will come next, as well as being consistently entertaining throughout, no matter what style the band is playing at the time. Following a brief intro track, the album kicks off with “Betrayal”, an up-tempo, high energy track that combines the speed and vocal melodies of a power metal track, with some decidedly classic hard rock sounding guitar riffs, which makes for a nice combination. It’s a fast-paced, very fun track with energetic verses and a huge, melodic and very catchy chorus, where Gianbattista gets to shine. It gets the album off to an excellent start and is a great track on its own. Next is “You Got Me Wrong”, a slightly upbeat, though more restrained track, which has more of those classic hard rock riffs, while being more melodic overall. It moves at a nice pace, without really speeding up, and definitely falls into more of a typical melodic metal sound, with another excellent chorus. Perhaps the most accessible track on the album is next, that being the second single “The Storm”. It’s a slower, very relaxed track, driven largely by keyboards and vocals. It’s a very melodic track, with an excellent chorus and some great vocal melodies throughout. There’s a slight hard rock edge to it, but it’s definitely a very accessible track, which I could easily imagine being played on the radio.

The longest track on the album is “Road to Nowhere”, which has a pretty cool voiceover intro, before the band kicks in and it turns into a hard-hitting, mid-paced melodic metal track, which moves at a nice tempo, without quite going full throttle. The riffs hit harder than on most tracks here, and it’s definitely a darker feeling track compared to most, while still having an excellent chorus. It’s definitely one of the tracks where the two guitarists get a chance to shine and are one of my favorites on the album. Next is the fast-paced, rather playful track “Welcome Home”, which has a slight power metal feel to it, while also still having some hard rock in its guitars sound. It’s another fairly accessible and fun track, with fun verses, a great chorus, and a sense of disrespecting the listeners’ intelligence, in a sort of tongue and cheek way, having to remind them when the second verse is about to come in. Aside from that oddity, the track is actually great overall, and of my favorites on the album. As expected, after a couple heavier tracks the pace slows down once again, with the very melodic, slow paced “All That is Real”, a largely keyboard-driven track, with a great guitar solo in the second half, though overall it’s another very accessible and radio-friendly track.

Moving towards the end, lead single “No Hero” is a hard-hitting, classic heavy metal track, with some slight modern touches. It moves a nice pace, features some very heavy riffs and a fun, catchy chorus, and is definitely one of the most instantly engaging, classic metal feeling tracks on this album, sure to please fans looking for something a bit heavier compared to most of the album. Following that, the band once again changes direction completely, offering up the lone ballad of the album, “The Willow Tree”. It’s a fairly simple track, with soft guitar work accompanying the vocals most of the way through, though it has an excellent solo in the middle, and overall it’s a very nice track which serves as a great showcase for Gianbattista, with the chorus, in particular, being amazing. Next is “Above Everything”, which is another nice mid-paced melodic metal track, with some great keyboards and a great chorus, and then comes the last speedy track of the album, “Children of the Light”, a very heavy guitar driven track, which is the closest the album comes to sounding like classic power metal, especially during the chorus. The band brings a harder rock infused sound back for “Better Days”, an upbeat track which moves at a decent pace, and it has a lot of energy to it, with some very smooth and fun verses, and one of the best choruses on the album, helping to make it one of my favorites. Lastly, we have the closing track “L.I.F.E.”, a slow-paced melodic metal track, with some excellent vocals, especially during the chorus. It’s a fairly soft and melodic track, relying heavily on the vocals, and Gianbattista delivers a great performance as always, helping to end the album on a high note.

Overall, Rise is an excellent sophomore release, which proves The Unity is here to stay, and that they’re capable of standing on their own and releasing some excellent music. In fact, while I enjoy classic Gamma Ray as much as anyone, I’d go as far as to say I enjoy this more than anything that band has done is well over a decade, maybe even going as far back as 1999’s Powerplant, as I find the songwriting here to be far more consistent and engaging, and the performances are just as strong all around. There’s a bit of something for everyone here, with some nice hard rock infused power metal, some mid-paced heavy metal crunchers, some slow paced melodic metal, a ballad and one track which I’d describe as classic power metal. Fans of melodic metal and hard rock with a slight power metal touches are sure to enjoy this, and overall I find it to be a very pleasant surprise. With Kai Hansen seemingly busy for a while yet, I hope The Unity can continue to produce more great albums in the future.

 

Written by: Travis Green

Ratings:  8/10

 

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