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Three years after its last release, The Wolves Go Hunt Their Prey, Germany’s powerhouse duo The Vision Bleak returns with a new gothic metal offering called Set Sail to Mystery. In keeping with the long tradition of true gothic metal hinged on the very formula that makes gothic metal a viable genre, the latest release is yet another plus for the band.
Aside from the current trend of “mall Goths” that infiltrated both our shopping centers and our music, some bands actually have the fortitude to stick with the correct gothic blueprint and create good music. The Vision Bleak is one of the very few bands that manage to do this with every release. Not quite doom, not quite power, not completely symphonic, TVB combines the best elements of these sub-genres and performs nicely throughout Set Sail to Mystery. Somewhat reminiscent of Italy’s Devil Doll (though certainly not as avant-garde or uneven) the tracks can transport the listener to a very deep well of musical euphoria, especially evident on the track “I Dined with the Swans,” which is a brilliant song. Unabashedly heavy metal, the classification of “true gothic metal” certainly applies to TVB, and deservedly so.
Ulf Theodor Schwadorf and Allen B. Konstanz still man the helms of the ship and offer up a great album of shadowy songs that are both heavy and picturesque with the right mind-frame. What passes for gothic metal music these days is nothing short of black humor; the feel and writing are so severely lacking or pedestrian. The only thing that even remotely resembles the lifestyle and music these bands employ is the inane clothing that even the Sisters of Mercy would burn. Also, to the band’s credit, they managed to excise a familiar demon in today’s gothic metal world: no female singer! Schwadorf handles this area in similar fashion to a slightly more baritone Peter Murphy and needs no help. Therein lies a perfect comparison; a heavy metal Sisters of Mercy or Bauhaus properly describes TVB’s overall sound. Creating romantic pictures of loss, love, death and pain is what sets TVB apart from most other bands in the genre, an already overcrowded elevator these days. Forget Cradle of Filth (I surely have) because this is what gothic metal is supposed to be.
Set Sail to Mystery has no real dull moments in the release; interesting musical passages over hauntingly authoritative vocals create one of the better offerings I’ve heard this year. For someone who isn’t really a fan of the gothic label since it’s seen a submerging with lackluster bands in the last few years, TVB is a large exception for me. Standout tracks are the aforementioned “I Dined with the Swans”, “The Outsider”, and the haunting “Mother Nothingness”, which is as close to old Black Sabbath as one can feasibly get. Backed by very fine production, the music here is allowed room to breathe as opposed to the veritable “suffocated” feel in some gothic music in an obviously failed attempt to make the listener feel trapped. This offering by TVB is the type of music that Type O Negative could never seem to master, in my humble opinion, hence the further belief that the underground well is usually the best refuge for the deeper waters of true majesty in metal music.
I really hope The Vision Bleak manages to find itself an even larger following, because as long as I have to walk the malls and be subjected to foolish kids playing the part without knowing the full magic of gothic living, then at least they should have the right soundtrack and not something that should be called “Sesame Street in Black.”
(Originally written for http://www.metalpsalter.com)