Spanish power metal outfit Taken’s sophomore effort Unchained is in many respects a glorious tour de force of melodic power metal. That glory is however hampered to some degree by frustrating decisions. The album blends traditional power metal with interesting ideas, some of which work like a cheesy charm, and some of which are complete misfires. Likely, the songwriting is the best part of the music. These guys have penned a collection of highly catchy tunes that know just how to balance the groovy riffing and a fleshed out rhythm section with melodic antics, woven in through both blistering lead guitars and flowing keyboards, to create power metal anthems in the vein of the old school, bringing it in to the current era. The choruses are the focal points of each song, and the duty is carried strongly with catchy vocal lines and strong performances throughout from vocalist David Arredondo.
Furious decision number one becomes apparent already in the opening track; the guest vocalists that serve little purpose. Arredondo needs no help, and yet opening track Worgen Slayer - a perfectly high flying beast in the shape of a power metal anthem - gives an inexplicable guest spot to Chris Bay (Freedom Call), who’s over the top expressions are completely wrong for the tune. It’s still one of the standout tracks on here, with some furious guitars and a great solo to boot, but it could have been so much better without Bay. Aside from that, and the needless flirting with the Japanese market, another odd choice is the sheer length of the album. At over an hour, it’s about twelve minutes too long. Understandably, short ballad Muse is meant to break the flow of the album and get things moving in other directions, but the two and a half minute track is forgettable and adds nothing to the whole. Pluck out some of the worst offenders (A Thunder in the Storm and The Land of the Rising Sun) and the album becomes more concise and gets a better flow between the flourishing power metal fury of the start and the longer, more fleshed out tracks like A New Beginning and Sancho the Strong that follows, making sure the album hasn’t overstayed its welcome once the epic Rhylian rolls in.
When Taken gets it right however, they really get it right, tossing in some clean examples of European power metal in its element. They’ve also dared to go out on limbs and try different things; the winding melodic keyboards in Sancho the Strong that sets the Spanish theme without sounding too farfetched or unfit for the rest of the album, or the darker atmosphere permeating My Inner Monster for a heavier feel to the otherwise very uplifting music - while it does feel a little buried and the dark atmosphere isn’t taken quite as far as it might have. Unchained shows Taken clearly have what it takes to blast some high quality power metal, and also that the pitfalls are easy to fall into. The keyboards are there, highlighting the great guitar play of Iosu Núňez and Gauss throughout the album, while Arredondo shows that his guest spot on the latest Skeletoon album wasn’t a fluke. The album is carried by strong efforts from the musicians, and with just some tweaking here and there, could have been the unexpected power metal hit of the year.
Standout tracks: Worgen Slayer, A New Beginning, Sancho the Strong