12/10/2005 - Review by: Veritas
Unshine - Earth Magick - 2005 - Crash Music
At this point you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about popularity and appeal rather than the music itself. The music is what’s really important, isn’t it? In most cases, yeah, it is. But in this genre, a lot more goes into making a “great” band. Epica and Within Temptation are often considered pop music, at least according to some Dutch people I’ve spoken to. Nightwish play to enormous, stadium sized crowds in Finland, the kinds that only the likes of Judas Priest would draw over here. So what makes them so beloved, especially in their home countries? Obviously the first reason is exposure – television appearances, music videos that air regularly, etc. Secondly, whether you like it or not, the whole “female” aspect definetley comes into play. Whether it’s lustful men or angsty girls who “identify” with the lead singer, more fans are drawn and more records are sold. I get the feeling that with a lot (but not by any means, all) of these female-fronted gothic bands the goal isn’t to make great music, but to make a lot of money. The only upside is that most of them start off with more talent than, say, Evanescence.
Now, you mustn’t think I’m complaining. And I really should be getting onto Unshine, but that can wait one more second. I really like this genre – a lot actually. Sometimes the methods of some bands just bother me a bit. But before I get carried away and turn this review into an editorial – Unshine don’t really fit this mold. Their music, image, and approach don’t indicate that they want to be the next big thing. My long detailed explanation, contrary to what you might think, was definetley necessary, however. It’s the reason why I’m slightly confused. After a detailed description of Earth Magick, maybe I’ll elaborate.
This album kicks off with a track called “Rowena’s Song,” which is probably my favorite on the album, although it has competition a little while later. The chorus is very catchy, and very emotional sounding. One of my reasons for not suspecting Unshine of any “foul play” is the emotion in the music – you can just feel it when you listen. Few bands have that effect, the one where you can sincerely tell that the singer really means what they’re saying. It might sound cheesy, but just by listening to her I can tell Susanna Vesilahi’s heart is in what she does. The keyboards, played by Harri Hautala (one of the guitarists) only play a relatively simple piano melody throughout the song. They’re accompanied by a (mostly) audible bass line and backing atmospheric keyboards. The guitars really only come in during the chorus, and they’re not very heavy. In fact, overall Unshine aren’t a very heavy band at all, but that doesn’t detract from the pleasant sounds they create.
Let’s go back to the emotion in Susana’s voice for a second. We’ve already established that it’s definetley there, right? So what sort of confuses me (and this ties in to what I was talking about before the actual review began) is her range. It seems almost nonexistent. Before I go any further, let me say that the remaining eight tracks on the album follow more or less the same pattern as “Rowena’s Song” does. They’re still pretty good, but there’s little variation in overall structure. So, anyway, back to Susana’s voice. She almost never (and I mean NEVER) goes for any drawn out or high notes. Or low notes, for that matter. She stays at what seems to be a perpetual mid-range, and whenever a note sounds like it would normally be carried out further, she takes a little breath almost mid-note, which takes away some of the effect. Not a good thing. Maybe she needs some work, or maybe she’s doing it for a reason. I’m slightly baffled, but it’s not the end of the world.
Now that we’re past all that, how about a look at the other seven songs? Like I said, the basic structure stays the same throughout the rest of the songs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth mentioning, so I’ll tell you a little bit about each of them. “Not for Me” has one of those choruses where everything – the tempo, the notes, the atmosphere, the mood – just lifts right up. I love moments like this – aside from the literal lifting, my spirits tend to rise a little at parts like this. The only thing I don’t like about the song is that at the very end it slows down and gets a bit darker – the perfect thing to do here would seem to be another uplifting chorus, to finish it all off – but the song just ends on a slightly depressing note instead. How sad. “The Last Moment” begins with a similarly somber intro and verse. This mood persists throughout the song, along with a terribly average guitar riff to boot. Not exactly Unshine’s best work here, despite some “morbid” organs at the end.
Track four, “Snow White,” is actually a lot of fun. It’s quite possibly the most upbeat song on this album, with lots of synth violin, which I always like. Here is where we first see some real symphonic influences on Unshine’s music – unfortunately it’s probably the only time. Tracks five and six bring nothing but confusion with them. I don’t know if only my copy has been switched, or if the lyrics to these songs do not correspond whatsoever with their names (but somehow do correspond with the names of different songs) but it seems that “Heaven” and “Supergirl” appear out of order. Everywhere I look
“Heaven” is listed first, but on my CD the song “Supergirl” clearly comes first. I sort of wish it didn’t, it’s not as good as “Heaven.” In fact, “Heaven” probably has the best overall melody of any song on the album – it rivals “Rowena’s Song” as my true favorite. “For the Huntress and the Moon” continues this trend, picking up exactly where “Heaven” left off in terms of quality. On this track we clearly bear witness to the best guitar work on the album, with a few riffs that are more creative than what I had come to expect from Unshine. Of course Unshine wouldn’t want to keep me happy forever, and so they decided to make “In Green Darkness” synonymous with the word “lackluster.” Boring plus slow equals, to be quite frank, a bad song.
After giving “Earth Magick” a handful of spins, I am, like I said before, still a little confused. Here’s a band clearly capable of making great music in an oft-maligned genre, but they chose to do it only half the time. Their vocalist seems to be afraid to reach her full potential, or is unable to do so. They clearly aren’t out for commercial gain but if they don’t improve then they won’t really build up a decent fan base, I’m afraid. However, I still will say that Unshine, with what little material they’ve given me, are a band I really like. I’m optimistic that they can overcome these small problems, not get caught in the fame spider’s web, and turn out to be a really great band. Recommended to all gothic, power, and even general metal fans willing to put up with a few inconveniences in order to experience some enjoyable music.
8/4/2005 - Review by: Eric Compton
Unshine - Earth Magick - 2005 - Crash Music
Unshine was formed in 2001 and have had a few demo tapes circulating the last few years. After successful shows in Spain and the quality of the demos, the group landed a deal with Crash Music. Now "Earth Magick" has been released, the band's debut album and one that really leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. With this particular genre I need power and persuasion first and foremost. I need a vocalist that has a real smooth delivery and the ability to mix the vocals up to create mood and atmosphere. I need the music to be rather diverse, never subjecting itself to the Moonspell/Billy Idol way of thought, that being bass line, soft drums, and almost spoken passages.
Unshine really just goes through the motions. Never wanting to become heavy, but really not wanting to take their soft delivery and circulating it to become catchy or interesting. Vocalist Susanna Vesilahti certainly has a strong voice, but instead of reaching highs and lows she stays middle of the road, playing it safe instead of reaching out and taking chances. Just when it seems like guitarist Jari Hautala is ready to explode on guitar, the music shifts into the same repetitive pattern of bass line, soft chords, and Vesilahti's monotone delivery. One or two cuts with that structure is fine, but the band relies on this pattern for a majority of the album. The keyboards are a nice touch, almost creating a dark symphony under the rather lackluster "undershine".
Overall this just isn't very entertaining, and with bands like Lacuna Coil, Vanguard, and Within Temptation doing this sound so much better, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of playing time for Unshine. Hopefully the band will focus more on the entertainment side of their musical vision in the future, and create some melody and mood that captures the listener. For now we have "Earth Magick", an extremely dull record that does nothing to improve upon or add to this popular genre.
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