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Another slice of pompous goth metal, good sir? - 60%

Sean16, August 5th, 2006

Opening the booklet I first see two pale-faced puppets in 19th century suits I assume to be the bandmembers, then a H.P. Lovecraft picture, while looking at the lyrics I read they deal with a man on a journey to Carpathia finally discovering he’d been cursed by Kutulu (I’ll keep the way they write the name of our beloved aquatic creature) worshippers. Now this makes one seriously wish there exists a law against overuse of Lovecraftian themes (as well as Tolkien-related themes, but it’s another matter), but at least the guys don’t seem to be afraid of ridicule.

As expected the music itself sounds as pretentious as the booklet. This is orchestral gothic metal, not without similarities with post-Theli era Therion, with the difference that Therion has already done it a thousand times better. I’m not pretending The Vision Bleak is a clone of Therion though; as they don’t use opera singers for instance, apart from the usual goth female singer. Now orchestral bands always make me very wary, actually apart from the aforementioned Therion I still got to find a truly talented one. Most of the time such acts seem to suffer from what I’d call Suckin’ Temptation syndrome, using tons of orchestrations to hide the failure of the musicians at properly playing their instruments and composing complex, attention-catching and above all inspired metal songs.

Unfortunately The Vision Bleak seems to mostly fall into this category, as if one looks beyond the bombastic orchestral wrapping most of time one will find elementary guitar lines, basic drumming and not really varied structures. If there are instrumental parts there are no actual solos, every track is built on the exact same mildly slow tempo without any internal change in pace, while vocals sound annoyingly dull. Those, apart from the aforementioned scarce female vocals or even scarcer growls (at the end of Dreams in the Witch House for instance), consist in the standard low clean male gothic voice, sometimes reminding of Peter Steele of Type O Negative fame, but without the emotion, thus without any interest.

Everything isn’t negative (pun not intended) on this album though, and while the first half is rather sleep-inducing, it partially redeems itself with the second half and a bunch of livelier, more inspired songs. Sister Najade, maybe the best track, exhibits a crystalline and somewhat hypnotizing piano leitmotiv as well as charming female vocals, while The Curse of Arabia innovates a bit with some mid-Eastern singing (doesn’t sound illogical looking at the title, right?). Kutulu!, another well-done tune, is eventually higher-paced and by far the most guitar-driven song here, even showing a genuine SOLO! Eventually the ten minutes long closing track is in the same vein, beginning with a couple of interesting faster riffs, though being less remarkable than its predecessor, probably just because it’s too long for what it is, ending up dragging on a bit.

So in spite of the overall light content and the too-pompous-to-be-honest atmosphere, this is far from being an unlistenable album, and at least the band uses a genuine orchestra. I’m not likely to check anything else from The Vision Bleak, though.

Highlights: Sister Najade (The Tarn by the Firs), Kutulu!