Review by J-Sin
If Lacuna Coil wrote epic metal ballads they might just sound like Unshine. Led by the female she-devil known as Susanna, Unshine marks a deviant left turn into the role of folklore-driven epic metal. Having formed in Finland in 2000, this still relatively young band boasts a very mature sound and is sure to be one of epic metal’s finest quintets. Raise ‘em up.
Review by Britton Dicks
Female fronted Metal bands are not usually my cup of tea. Most of these bands focus on a woman’s appearance and could care less if she can sing or not. This is something that pisses me off and makes me sad for the industry at the same time. But when a female fronted band is formed with the music in mind first and foremost, it is more respectable in my mind. A good female vocalist can also help further along the atmosphere of a band’s music. Take Hagalaz’ Runedance for example. I couldn’t imagine any male vocalist singing those songs, nor could I imagine a female singing them who can’t carry a tune. You can have the most mouth watering and hot female vocalist on the planet, but if she can’t sing she’s useless to me. At least when it comes to her vocals… Anyway, Finland’s Unshine luckily found themselves a female vocalist that can actually sing, and their debut full length album “Earth Magick” is a shining example of how a female vocalist can add great atmosphere to a band who is trying to create a certain mood for the listener.
“Earth Magick” isn’t totally Goth Metal, but it is (for lack of a better term) for the most part. It also has some elements of Power and Atmospheric Traditional Metal as well. The band actually calls themselves “Mystic Druid Metal”, which probably better describes them than I can, but I’ll try. Their sound can be best described as a slower paced and more Gothic Nightwish, sans the Operatic vocals. The music here is slow, brooding and has an almost depressive aura surrounding it. It never gets very fast paced, but this album is not about speed or aggression, it is all about that certain atmosphere. The album (as you can tell from the album title) is very nature oriented, and the music sounds like a Metal theme soundtrack you would here in a nature movie. Lazily played yet powerfully sorrowful guitars, drums that are there just as a backbone and that never stand out, and slow and prodding bass lines are what you can expect on this album. There are also a lot of keyboards on this on “Earth Magick”. Those “dreamy” styled keyboards that I usually hate. But like I said, this is all about atmosphere and the keyboards are a perfect compliment to the rest of the music on the album.
The vocalist, Susanna Vesilahti, is one of the best new female vocalists I’ve heard in a while to put it bluntly. She has a style all of her own where when she’s singing she places emphasis on certain syllables which seem like they’d be out of time or off beat, but aren’t. It may sound odd, but she really reminds me of a more traditional and melodic Cyndi Lauper, especially when she’s singing the higher notes. She also sounds like she’s some long lost forgotten forest spirit. It’s stunning to hear! Unfortunately the lyrics were not included with this C.D., but the promo sheet says the lyrics are about Nature religions and historical events. I tried looking for the lyrics online, but couldn’t find them. I hope to soon because I love nature oriented lyrics!
The sound of the album is amazing. Slower music doesn’t particularly need as good of a production to sound good as faster music does, but they spared no expense with the production for this album. Having all those keyboards too far in the front could have ruined it, but thankfully they are at just the right levels. Also, Susanna’s vocals are always audible when they sway back and forth from loud to soft over the music.
The artwork for “Earth Magick” is a great woodland Fantasy scene done in deep, dark and rich colors. It kind of looks like an Elf playing some sort of acoustic guitar in the forest, maybe? Like I said earlier, the booklet does not contain the lyrics, which was a mistake in my opinion. The inside of the two page booklet does have a few photos of the band, but that’s about it.
Fans of Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, The Gathering and Midnattsol will love “Earth Magick”. It certainly is a lot better than Nightwish’s last album, so if you were let down with that album like I was, buying this will make you feel redeemed. And if you’re one that usually shies away from female fronted bands, you have my guarantee that this album is far and above better than most other similar albums out there. I can’t wait to hear their next album. Bands like this usually like to experiment a lot, and that could bode well for Unshine. Finland adds yet another band to their list of great Metal acts.
All Music Guide
Review by Stewart Mason
Finnish goth metal crew Unshine have one key element in their favor: singer Susanna Vesilahti sounds like Tori Amos should have (but didn’t) during her own infamous metal flirtations back in the late ’80s, and her attractive voice stays at the center of all of these songs. Unshine’s primary flaw is that they seem to be of two minds as to their musical direction, with part of the album pointed toward standard-issue goth metal in the tradition of Lacuna Coil and Nightwish and another, potentially more interesting side that puts those influences in an unapologetically poppy direction. The first single, “Rowena’s Song,” is genuinely catchy, sounding like Evanescence without the angst, or perhaps a more aggressive version of mid-’90s alterna-drone-poppers the Cranberries. Elsewhere, “Not for Me” and “Snow White” explore the intersection between ’70s prog and the Lilith Fair sound. As the record goes on, however, the songs move into more traditional goth metal, and songs like “For the Huntress and the Moon” are considerably less individual, and less appealing as well. Unshine could go either way at this point, but the best material on Earth Magick hints at something potentially very interesting here.