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I must confess to having never paid Vision Bleak a great deal of mind until they confirmed their London date with Alcest, and then for the past couple of months I’ve been uttering the words “must hear some Vision Bleak” until this finally pinged into my inbox. My expectations weren’t especially high; despite being on what I dubbed to be one of the most consistent labels in another recent review, that is, Prophecy Productions, I have heard less than favourable things and aside from that had drawn an assumption in my own head having most likely got my wires crossed with a rather uninteresting progressive power metal band of a very similar name. Ho hum.
The good thing about low expectations is that it’s not difficult to be pleasantly surprised when you hear it and turns out to be rather good; so much easier than on the numerous occasions when a band has been hyped up by the press and then you discover for yourself how mediocre they actually are. With the case of Vision Bleak I was very much pleasantly surprised. There’s a real sense of adventure to this album that feels rather like embarking on a voyage after stumbling upon a mouldy old map up in your attic that leads to unconquered land. We get straight to the chase here with ‘A Curse Of The Grandest Kind’ which sweeps in with a real sense of foreboding and gradually climbs the mast, the music rising with epic grandeur around the unyielding spoken word of Ulf Theodor Schwadorf. At this point what we hear is a very Teutonic bellow that kind of has me wanting to compare to Till Lindemann of Rammstein fame. It’s rather poetic as well.
As we ‘Descend Into Maelstrom’ we get to the thick of the storm and really get to know what they are about. Things sail full speed ahead with a true sense of purpose; riffs strong as cast iron while the keyboards rise up around the edges adding a real sense of pomp and spectacle to proceedings. There is a nice crunch to their sound, with a sturdy gothic metal foundation that drives things along without getting swamped by the keyboards and orchestration. ‘A Romance With The Grave’ stomps in with a really bold and brazen riff which is broken into by a rather cheeky sinuous melody which makes this one especially memorable. That romanticism perhaps shines through in a Gothic manner and conjures up necrotic imagery of the graveyard after nightfall.
‘I Dined With The Swans’ plays out with a rather dreamy, floaty waltz and it certainly has a swan-like grace about it. Interestingly enough, an alternative version of this one is currently being recorded with Niklas Kvarforth on vocals which I for one am curious to hear. ‘Mother Nothingness (The Triumph Of Ubbo Sathla)’ sends signals across the radar, trailing through murky waters at a slow pace creating an eerie atmosphere. This one is rather dark and brooding with a sorrowful tone, and towards the end the vocals really shine as they creep up into a rich, semi-operatic style that sounds incredibly dramatic. I find there to be quite a nautical theme to this which is projected well in the music, albeit in a more understated and mature way than certain other bands, and let’s hope their ship don’t get seized by pirates, yarr! The keyboards on ‘The Foul Within’ swipe crudely across the mix, haunting it with its creepy horror-esque tone. This one flits between a strong metallic chorus and a calm, contemplative verse and the female vocals while fleeting are a nice touch.
Overall I found this to be an enjoyable album that exceeded my expectations considerably. The songs are both catchy and epic; there’s a strong metallic crunch that is built around with atmospherics without getting swallowed up. Another shameless plug (one of several on this update); this is available in a limited edition hardback 56 page book with a bonus disc which includes the Kvarforth version of ‘I Dined With The Swans’, along with exclusive artwork and photography. Very nice if you have 38 euros spare. The real bonus now is that I have two bands to look forward to watching next month; here’s to a night of pine scented and sepia toned metal!
Written by Luci Herbert for http://www.metalteamuk.net