INTERVIEW: Emerald (Switzerland) – Dark Art Conspiracy
Speaking for Emerald: Al Spicher (drums)
Interview by Carina Lawrence / Dark Art Conspiracy
Can you tell us about how you came up with the name Emerald?
Al: The name is taken from the Thin Lizzy classic “Emerald”. We still think it’s a cool name, even though there are some other bands acting under the same name. If you choose a name this short and catchy, there’s always a big chance that it is already taken. But back in 1995 you couldn’t just google a name and check if it was still available. So we just went with it!
You have been going for more than two decades now, how would you say your sound has evolved in that time?
Al: I guess it evolved just the way any band’s sound is supposed to. The first songs were pretty simple and the abilities of each member were rather limited. Over the years the songwriting became more mature and everyone got more experienced.
Each line-up change also brought some new influences to the mix, which led to more diversity in our sound. We certainly got heavier and more open minded over the years but we always stayed true to our roots!
Following on from that, how much has the metal music scene changed, especially in your home country Switzerland since your formation?
Al: The metal scene in Switzerland definitely grew stronger within the last years. Back in the mid 90s classic heavy metal was completely shut out. In our region, Emerald was pretty much the only band playing this kind of sound. In the beginning it was rather hard to find good gigs to play since the demand for this kind of music was rather small. But nowadays there is a good and healthy underground metal scene growing here in Switzerland with lots of cool bands playing all different kinds of metal and lots of small new metal festivals popping up each year.
So you are releasing your seventh album, ‘Reckoning Day’ on the 24th March, what can you tell us about this new release?
Al: For us, “Reckoning Day” marks some kind of turning point since it is the first album with a whole new line-up and the first sign of life after 5 years of silence. Some might even call it a comeback album because no one heard or saw anything of us within the last years and considered us dead. It was indeed very quiet after the departure of former singer Thomas L. Winkler, but we’ve always been active, writing songs and planning our return to the surface… plotting our day of reckoning, so to speak!
What was the writing and recording process like for the album?
Al: The writing process was very unusual since it was the first time that we had to write everything without having a singer in the band. We just wrote and recorded some instrumental demo songs and added some of our own demo-vocals while we were searching for a new singer.
In 2014, American singer George Call (Aska, ex-Omen) joined our band and agreed to sing on all songs on “Reckoning Day”. So we went to the Little Creek Studio here in Switzerland where we recorded all songs in instrumental versions under the supervision of producer V.O. Pulver (Gurd, Poltergeist, Destruction…). Then we sent the tracks to Texas where George was supposed to record his vocals. Since George was very busy with some other projects, it took him more than a year to finally start working on our songs. In the meantime, as we grew more and more impatient, we started looking for a new singer here in Switzerland and finally found the great voice of Mace Mitchell, who was very eager to finish the vocals on our record and become a permanent member of Emerald.
George Call still delivered the vocals for 2 songs that appear on “Reckoning Day” as well as a third song which will be used as a bonus track on the limited edition version.
As you can see, the whole process was pretty tedious. It never took us five years to put out a new record before. But now it’s finally here and we are really happy with it!
How would you say it compares to the rest of your back catalogue?
Al: Well, the new album is always the best, haha! No, of course that’s always a matter of opinion! But we certainly think it is a step forward and the logical continuation of the path we chose on the previous albums. It features a much broader range of musical influences and some excellent vocal work from Mace Mitchell and George Call.
One thing that’s unique on this record is the 7 track mini-concept “The Burgundian Wars” on the second half of the album. It is based on the novel “Der Löwe von Burgund” from our keyboarder Thomas Vaucher and tells the story of the conflict between Charles the Bold and the Swiss confederates.
Oh… and the new album has definitely the best sound we ever had, thanks to the great production of V.O. Pulver!
As well as a new album you have a new band line-up, how are things going so far and how would you say the dynamics have changed following this?
Al: You could say that Emerald 2017 is a whole new band! From the very first line-up only band founder Michael Vaucher (guitars) and his brother Thomas Vaucher (keyboards) are left. I consider myself as one of the “old guys” as well since I’ve been playing the part of Emerald’s drummer for already 10 years now. The rest of the bandmembers all joined the band within the last four years: Julien Menth (guitars) in 2013, Vania Truttmann (bass) in 2014 and Mace Mitchell (vocals) in 2016. All three of them brought a lot of freshness and enthusiasm into the band, which was exactly what the rest of us needed.
I think I can speak for everyone in the band when I say that we now have the greatest line-up ever! The dynamics in Emerald have never been this powerful before and it has never been this much fun to play in this band. I believe that, in this constellation, we have a great future ahead of us!
Collectively what are your main musical influences?
Al: Well, there’s one band we can all agree upon: Iron Maiden! Apart from that, everyone in the band has his/her own personal favourites. That leads to a wide range of influences that includes bands from the hard rock, punk, heavy, power, prog, thrash, symphonic and even modern metal sector.
How is it to be signed with Pure Steel Records?
Al: It’s a cool underground label that stands 100% behind everything we do. For them, heavy metal is not just business but a lifestyle. We’ve been part of the Pure Steel family for more than 10 years now and are very happy for everything they have done for us so far. They never treated us like just another number in their roster. They are big fans of every band they sign.
Are there any plans for a tour in support of the new album?
Al: We certainly want to do another tour, yes, but so far we don’t have any specific plans.
What else has Emerald got planned for the year?
Al: We already have some great gigs confirmed and hope to play some festivals across Europe this year. Apart from that we are already working on our next album and want to hit the studio again as soon as possible.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Al: First of all, I’d like to thank you, Carina, for your interest in Emerald and the opportunity to share my thoughts with you! I’d also like to thank all Emerald fans worldwide for their loyalty and endless support! You rock!!!
And I promise it won’t take another five years to release our next album. We are back, stronger than ever and ready for the next 20 years of Emerald!
Let’s raise our horns up high!!!
Thanks for your time!
Dark Art Conspiracy
1. Only The Reaper Wins
2. Black Pyramid
3. Evolution In Reverse
4. Horns Up
5. Beyond Forever
6. Through The Storm
7. Ridden By Fear
8. Mist Of The Past
9. Trees Full Of Tears
10. Lament Of The Fallen
11. Reckoning Day
12. Reign Of Steel
13. Signum Die
14. Fading History
15. End Of The World (Bonustrack)
Total Playing Time:: 62:08
Total Playing Time with Bonustrack: 67:15 min
vocals – Mace Mitchell
guitars – Michael Vaucher
guitars – Julien Menth
bass – Vania Truttmann
drums – Alex Spicher
keys – Thomas Vaucher
vocals – George Call – “Evolution In Reverse”, “Through The Storm”
guitar solo – Slädu – “Horns Up”
backing vocals – Alexx Suter – “Beyond Forever”
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