These days, good power metal is as hard to find as an honest man in government. I still love the style but there’s a real paucity of acts that get me interested and enthused. Sadly, Switzerland’s long running act Emerald has never been among them. Though I’ve only sampled their material a few times over the years, nothing I ever heard struck me or demanded further attention. It’s not that they’re bad or talentless, they just don’t impress in any way, shape or form. With a standard Euro-power style and sound largely indistinguishable from the likes of Iron Fire, Freedom Call, Steel Attack and low-end Edguy, they manage to add just enough Iron Maiden to keep things from becoming too painfully generic. There’s competent playing with few surprises, average songwriting with a few moments of inspiration and that’s about it, folks. Basically, it’s another flat entry in the Big Book of Euro-power, with a few tracks worthy of hearing, though the overall album really isn’t. And you wonder why we review so much damn re-thrash!
On the good side of the ledger, tracks like “Face of Evil,” “F.T.M.” and “Another Universe” all supply decently energetic, zippy power metal with plenty of Maiden-isms embedded in the riffing and song structures. While “Face of Evil” is very by-the-numbers, it manages to be kind of fun. “F.T.M.” benefits from riffing and a chorus essentially lifted off the Blaze Bayley era Maiden albums (the good parts, I mean). That results in some gritty material which works quite well (though it breaks no new ground). “Another Universe” in turn, has A LOT of similarity to “Wildest Dreams” off Maiden‘s Dance of Death. If that works for you, you’ll enjoy it (though you might as well just listen to the original, which you likely own already). Also worth a spin is “Eye of the Serpent,” which goes for an early 80’s NWOBHM sound with an epic flavor, and “Ancient Mystery,” which has decent vocal patterns and a semi-catchy chorus (I’ve used up all my qualified praise for the year on this bad boy).
Alas, the rest of the entries are of a lesser quality. Cheesy power ballad “A Past Never Born” is dead on delivery and goes nowhere. When they try for that emotional crescendo at chorus time, things fall rather short, mostly because vocalist Thomas Winkler tries way too hard and ends up sounding overwrought (and a bit like Grave Digger‘s Chris Boltendahl for some reason). “Harleking” brings in a bit of folk flavor but ends up sounding like rightfully discarded Edguy material from Age of the Joker. The remainder of Unleashed falls squarely in the “meh” column and lacks bite or anything requiring repeat spins.
I’m always happy to point fingers and cast blame, but no one is particularly at fault for Unleashed being a Swiss miss. Winkler is a competent vocalist, though he’s utterly indistinguishable from the average power metal wailer. Likewise, Michael Vaucher and Manuel Werro are both able guitarists and they have some interesting solos and riffs scattered about, but nothing here will blow your mind. Where Emerald always comes up short is the song writing. A lot of this stuff is just plain and generic. You’ve heard it a zillion times before from far superior bands. Even the “standout” tracks are pretty vanilla and likely won’t motivate you to hear the rest of the album nor compel you to hunt down their older material. This is run-of-the-mill, average stuff, not likely to linger in your mind or on your playlists. I need more than that from my power metal these days, and I’m sure most of you are no different (see how populist Steel Druhm can be?).
Unleashed is a competent, but rote and cookie-cutter Euro-power release with little to recommend it. Indeed, I am NOT recommending it. If you must, sample the better tracks, then you’ll likely move on to greener, less cheesy pastures. You’ll find me there in a beat up lawn chair with a cooler full of beers. Don’t ask for one though, because Steel doth not share his brewskis. It is known, Khalessi.