Many years ago I was talking to Saxon‘s Biff Byford; During the conversation, he mentioned the fact that, although he and the band were happy to still be labelled a ‘heavy metal’ band, a song’s metal content was no guarantee for it to appear on an album, as the band considered themselves songwriters first and foremost, and it was ‘the song’ that mattered most before ‘the genre’.
I mention this in passing because one of the things that strikes you most about The Hellish Joyride, the new album from Euro rockers The Unity, is the incredibly high standard of the songwriting.
Now, to most casual observers. the name The Unity is probably synonymous with power metal, if only because the band’s Henjo Richter and Michael Ehré have history with power metal Kings Gamma Ray; Add to that new bassist Tobias Exxel‘s long stint in Edguy, and there can surely be no doubt as to just what kind of a band The Unity is.
But that’s where you are wrong. On the dozen tracks that make up The Hellish Joyride, the band put their songwriting smarts to the test over a wild variety of styles and moods, coming out on top at every turn. Sure, there are a few spirited headbanging romps to enjoy – hw could there not be? But there are also more thoughtful moments, and moments where the band’s songwriting suss simply takes over and they go along for the ride with it. It’s liberating enough to listen to – I can’t imagine what it would be like as an artist so associated with one style of music to simply follow one’s nose and go where the spirit moves…
Consequently the best track here, the anthemic Something Good, would probably be just as at home on an album from somebody like Snow Patrol as it is here; A slow building, stadium-levelling anthem of the highest quality, vocalist Jan Manenti stars with a sophisticated performance as the band ramp up the tear-jerking drama to near hysteria point over four and a quarter fabulous minutes. Closing track You’re Not Forced To Stay has a similar ‘indie’ feel, and you’d have to say that these little diversions into different territory, great though they are in and of themselves, also serve to revitalise the heavier moments too, making this one of the most singularly enjoyable Euro metal albums I’ve heard in quite some while.
The Hellish Joyride releases on August 25th.