Emerald is a traditional heavy metal band stemming from Switzerland whose history goes way back to the year 1995. In 1999, they released their first CD called "Rebels of our Time", followed by two more longplayers, namely "Calling the Knights" in 2001 and "Forces of Doom" in 2004. Their fourth album entitled "Hymns to Steel", however, is by far the most accomplished work they have ever put out and will surely catapult the band to the top of the Swiss underground metal scene in no time! Guitarist and band founder Michael Vaucher shares my thoughts: ""Hymns to Steel" is our definition of epic melodic heavy metal. We tried to make the new album more varied, particularly regarding the vocal parts and the speed of some songs. For the first time, we also featured some faster, heavier stuff like 'Hymn to Steel' or 'Empire of Lies'. Together with our 'normal' epic metal songs, a ballad with Celtic influences and an orchestral intro and outro, the album just has more variety than our last albums. And of course a much better production, we never worked so long in the studio before ..." This effort has surely paid off, as the songwriting has indeed improved immensely. The depth of the material is quite breathtaking, to say the least. "All songs are equally important to us", says Michael Vaucher, himself an ardent collector of rare Iron Maiden vinyl. "But as said above, we tried to make the album very diverse. So the key songs for me are 'Hymn to Steel', 'Revenge' and 'Empire of Lies'. 'Hymn to Steel' is a real metal hymn and fantastic for live gigs where the crowd can sing with us, 'Revenge' is a typical Emerald song with strong vocals and melodies and 'Empire of Lies' is very heavy and fast and has very important lyrics for me, not the typical medieval/fantasy style." Which neatly brings me to the next question. Concept albums are all the rage within epic metal circles. Some really good (like Manilla Road's latest offering) and some really cliché-ridden and overblown. "Hymns to Steel", however, is not a concept album at all, as Michael does not fail to stress: "We have totally different lyrics on this album. There are songs about our lifestyle and heavy metal like 'My Way', 'We shall rise' and 'Hymn to Steel", songs with fantasy lyrics like 'Revenge' and 'Bard Of the King', a ballad ('Will you ever return') which is about the all the sorrow and misery of war, 'Bastardo' that is about people you wish to hell. But the most important lyrics for me on this album are those for the two songs 'Blind Mass' and 'Empire of Lies' which I wrote with a lot of rage in the stomach. They are political songs, about the current state of world affairs. It has become so bad with our world that actually nobody should shut their eyes any more. The big governments are all corrupt, greedy for power and subjected to the economy. That is hidden of course through skilful lies. Today, everything is about money, profitability, benefits, efficiency and of course power. Everyone that opens his eyes and begins to read the newspapers correctly will realise that. Stirred up by fears, through the many different religions, through wars and terrorism, the nations are under control and most people do not understand what actually goes on."
The strictly limited vinyl edition of "Hymns to Steel" features five bonus tracks, as Michael explains: "Two of them have been released on tribute albums already. But we also have some exclusive stuff. Here are the details: 'Heaven help us' is taken from the album "One Foot in Fire - A Tribute to Cirith Ungol". 'Dr. Phibes/Dream World' is taken from the album "A Tribute to Angel Witch". Then we have recorded 'Warlord's Wrath' exclusively for this vinyl edition, this is a cover of the Canadian band Black Knight (they released a rare EP in the '80's). And we have two Emerald live tracks, recorded at the '10 Years of Emerald Anniversary Concert' in 2006 in Switzerland."
For the vinyl edition of "Hymns to Steel" Emerald have been able to secure a deal with High Roller Records. At first glance, this seems to look like a step down, as their 2001 album "Forces of Doom" was put out by one of the most legendary German metal labels ever, namely Shark Records/US Metal Records. However, some people have told rather bad stories about Shark. Michael Vaucher can't complain really: "We never had problems with Shark Records. We had a very good cooperation between label and band and the support for the CD was good. Of course, they did not do as much promotion as a major label would have done, but being an independent label, they helped us a lot. They even did a deal to release the album in South America through Rock Brigade Records and we could do the vinyl version of "Forces of Doom" ourselves without problems. So I really don't want to say anything bad about Shark Records. We are very thankful to Axel T. that he helped us in this period of our history. And I have great recollections of the studio recordings in Bochum for the album."
With Emerald's history going back 14 years, the band has played a couple of really legendary gigs. Michael's memory is spot on: "Well, there are two gigs I would like to mention here. Our gig at the 'Headbangers Open Air' in 2003 and our gig at the 'Swordbrothers Festival' in 2005. These two festivals were really amazing for us because the fans were the best in the world. Die-hard fans that sung our lyrics, really crazy for an underground band like us." At the mentioned 'Headbangers Open Air' in 1993, they shared a stage with N.W.O.B.H.M. Legends Trespass: "As I have just said above, it was an honour for us to play with such legendary bands such as Trespass or Blitzkrieg and with fantastic underground bands like Metal Inquisitor, Exiled, Nightshade or Stormwarrior. We had so much fun and a great time there. H.O.A. rules and we hope to play there again in the future. This festival is every headbanger's dream." But that was far from it, as Emerald also played along Nazareth, Anvil and Ruffians, three classic Hardrock/Metal acts. Did you talk to any of the guys in person, did you hang out with them? Michael Vaucher: "Yes, since the gig, we have a great friendship with the guys from Ruffians. We also talked with Lips and the guys from Anvil, that was an honour for us. It was not possible to get in direct contact with Nazareth, too many bodyguards ha, ha. In 2008 we played with Drifter, Sabaton and Stormwarrior and also made some fantastic friendships as as result."
With so many high-profile gigs already to their belt, it is no wonder the band has its own fan club in operation: "It's no big thing. Unfortunately, the two leaders of the fan club gave up their work. So we are still searching for a new fan club organiser. In the meantime, the fan club membership is for free and the band itself sends the members the Emerald News on a regular basis. We sell the Emerald albums and merchandise with discount to the F.C. members and once a year, we try to hold a fan club meeting with the band. If anyone is interested in joining the F.C., please write an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Membership is free!"
In case any of you wondered, yes, the band is indeed named after the legendary song "Emerald" by the mighty Thin Lizzy: "Yes, we took our name from this song. I'm a fan of Thin Lizzy, especially because I love songs with twin guitar leads (as you can hear in my own songs ha, ha) and Thin Lizzy were one of the first bands that used these great guitar harmonies (Iron Maiden, my favourite band of all time, perfected that later on)." If anyone wants to get in touch, please write to: Emerald, c/o Michael Vaucher, Meisenweg 16, CH-3186 Duedingen, Switzerland, e-mail: email@example.com, Website: www.emerald.ch or check our music under myspace.com/emeraldch. By the Power of the Emerald - The Spirit of Metal will never die!
Matthias Mader (Iron Pages)