Ah, melodic heavy metal, a hybrid invention with the purpose of injecting power to hard rock and AOR. Many bands have adventured through this dangerous – and blasphemous, to the most purist of headbangers – genre, taking advantage of its cheesiness, hooks and catchy nature. The Unity is another one of those bands, but with a catch: two of its members are known for their contribution to the power metal community, being them GammaRay members Henjo Richter (guitars) and Michael Ehré (drums, also ex-Metalium). Perhaps tired of making the same riffs and leads tried to exhaustion in power metal, Richter decided to do something very, very different: play the same riffs and leads elsewhere tried to exhaustion in hard rock/melodic metal. Shocking, huh?
Be it as it may, the two gathered some firepower to put their project to life and wound up recruiting Ehré Love.Might.Kill bandmates Gianba Manenti (vocals), Stefan Ellerhorst (guitars) Jogi Sweers (bass) and Sascha Onnen (keyboards), forming The Unity. Their first full-length effort is bound to be released on May 5th via SPV/Steamhammer and according to the band themselves, “When haunting songs at the interface between hard rock and melodic metal meet with the excellent musical skills and extensive experience of all musicians involved, the result is bound to be brilliant.“
Is it, though? Well, not quite so, and it’s not even close. There are certainly some winners in ‘The Unity’, but these are exceptions to the rule. The album has a couple of filler tunes and some completely disposable passages, so to call it “brilliant” is at least ludicrous. Opener “Rise and Fall” is a good effort that flirts with the more metal side of things. Packed with double-pedal drumming and really good guitar work, the song reminds an early Herman Frank tune, especially because of Manenti’s vocal resemblance to Jiotis Parcharidis’ (ex-Herman Frank, ex-Victory, ex-Human Fortress).
Also in the win department are the very interesting “God of Temptation”, the bombastic “Firesign” and the more cadenced but very competent “Killer Instinct”. The three, along with the already mentioned “Rise and Fall”, are the glue that holds the album together and the main reason why I didn’t gave the record a lower rating. “God of Temptation” is awesome and epic, with a vibe that takes us back to the great days of ‘The Eternal Idol’ and ‘Headless Cross’-era Black Sabbath and “Firesign” is the opposite, being upbeat and with catchier and more unpretentious lines, while “Killer Instinct” provides a good balance between heaviness and melody.
The downside of the album is its middle portion. The uninspired ballad “Always Just You” and the ridiculous “Close to Crazy” see the band trying too much to accomplish a laid-back and cool vibe, which backfires completely. “The Wishing Well”, “Edens Fire” and “Redeemer” are just ok but too generic, and none of them feature any sort of climax nor take off in a bombastic or remarkable way. The first and second ones have that Euro “pop-ish” atmosphere distillated by bands such as H.E.A.T. and Harem Scarem, while the third one brings a rock ‘n’ roll attitude to the table with lots of guitar distortions and a 1980’s keyboard background. “Never Forget” closes the album and, ironically enough, it’s best that we forget about it altogether. It’s too “happy” instrumental-wise and tries too hard to be emotional; diabetics, stay the hell away from this one.
To be brilliant in an ever-increasing genre – which is quickly becoming stale, as every other do from time to time – as hard/melodic metal is no small feat, so when you actually say that the result of your album “is bound to be brilliant”, you better know what the hell you’re talking about. Sadly for Richter, Ehré and their loyal rocker friends, brilliant is not a word I would associate ‘The Unity’ with. Instead, I find the album to be in the thin line between just decent and being good, and even not being a fan of this genre, I know for a fact that there are way better displays out there released this year, like Eclipse’s ‘Momentum’, Brother Firetribe’s ‘Sunbound’ and One Desire’s homonyms album.
With that being said, the record is good enough to please the hardcore hard rock/melodic metal fan, while being utterly forgettable to everyone else. Production and execution-wise, though, it’s a great effort, but the compositions fall short of mesmerizing or surprising the listener in any way. The band has yet to find its identity, and knowing the musicians and their experience with this sort of thing, it should blossom with another album or two. Until then, Richter and Ehré are better off sticking to Gamma Ray.