Emerald Sun - Under The Curse Of Silence - (8.5/10)
Published on February 23, 2019
Turbulent times tend to result in restless minds, and the ongoing political paradigm shifts going on in Europe and a few other places have not escaped the notice of the creative forces in the metal world. It may well be argued that the more chaotic things become, the better the music gets, but regardless of whether or not this be the truth, it definitely provides a healthy degree of inspiration for the genre of music that has no inhibitions about such a subject. While this sense of social awareness can manifest itself in a sizable number of ways, the now 20 year veteran Greek outfit of the power metal scene Emerald Sun has taken on an approach that is notably heavier and more in line with the aggressive side of the German style they’ve shown consistent affinity with, channeling the likes of Mystic Prophecy, Primal Fear and Brainstorm about as often they do the seminal melodic and faster-paced outfits of their earlier career in Helloween and Freedom Call. It’s not as massive of a shift as would suggest a speed or thrash metal caveat being added to their professed style on this particular album, but there is definitely a greater priority on thudding the mighty metallic hammer into the earth with a level of strength that would make the Grave Digger and Rage crowd take notice.
This isn’t to say that there is a huge gap in character of sound that divides Under The Curse Of Silence, Emerald Sun’s fourth excursion into full length LP composition, with that of the previous outing Metal Dome, but it is a noticeable one nonetheless. The heavier guitar sound and production job that focuses far less on keyboard presence is definitely more in line with Regeneration, while the songwriting is a tad bit more intricate and recalls several of the high points of what made Metal Domean unsung new classic. Perhaps the best analogous comparison would be to take two fairly distant Helloween albums (this band’s principle influence) in Keepers Of The Seven Keys Pt. 1 and The Dark Ride, and putting maybe a slight bit more emphasis on how Andi Deris’ vocals impacted the latter of the two. Stelios “Theo” Tsakirides has always sort of presented a similar vocal style to the raspy, almost Paul Di’Anno type vibe of Deris in contrast to earlier vocalist Jimmy Santrazami’s flawless Michael Kiske impersonation, but here Theo puts that extra needed grit into his performance to bring out the heavier side of what’s going on behind him and bring out that older school heavy metal root that was only briefly hinted up in past Emerald Sun releases.
As with any metallic outing, judging a book by its cover is usually deceiving, and the progression from one song to the next sees this band shifting back and forth between more rugged, riff oriented fair and their older approach of infectious, speedy fanfare. Despite the de-emphasized keyboard presence, the opening cruiser “Kill Or Be Killed” kicks things off in territory not all that far off from the opening song off the last album “Screamers In The Storm”, cruising at a mostly speed metal oriented pace and sporting a large sounding chorus section. This approach is mirrored with a bit more keyboard work and infectious hooks on “Weakness And Shame”, “Rebel Soul” and “Slaves To Addiction”, featuring plenty of dueling leads, screaming solos, and the winning Helloween/Gamma Ray flavor that has been this band’s root sound. By contrast, more mid-paced crushers like “Carry On”, “All As One” and the bass-heavy meat machine “Blast” as notably darker in feel and definitely conjure up a strong Firewind meets Primal Fear sound. The outlier songs that kind of throw the whole thing for a loop include a rather unsubtle nod to Helloween’s forgotten Time Of The Oath ballad “Forever And One” in “Journey Of Life”, and the Sabbath inspired, slow-paced anthem of ancient Greek pride and military might “Land Of Light” that could trade blows with the iron-clad fanfare of Hammerfall and Dream Evil any day.
The final verdict for this album is a mostly positive one, it definitely capitalizes more on Theo’s vocal versatility and delivers all the essential goods for an epic, melodic experience minus the really long-winded songs that often accompany this style. The principle downside, apart from the rather awkward and poorly adapted cover of Irene Cara’s “Fame” (Theo’s voice doesn’t really work and this is one of those songs where having an overblown keyboard part is a necessity, regardless of how metallic the adaptation), is a little less focus when compared to the last album. In a number of ways, this album retreads territory from 3 years ago, but the attempt to introduce the political imagery and hardening their overall tone is done in kind of a half-hearted way. There seems to be this correlation between this band sporting an album title that features some prominent green or paler colors and the quality of the album, and when things take on more of a conventional red or fiery color, the magic tends to take a backseat to a more mundane flavor. All the same, this band has continued to remain an obscure quantity deserving of a larger audience, and any self-respecting Helloween fan looking for more melodic-tinged power metal and a fast pace should lend his/her ear to this band’s discography.