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Ha, The Vision Bleak. The creative duo of Allen B. Konstanz and Ulf Theodor Schwadorf. Just reading the names of the band and its members, letting the syllables of this somewhat more distinguished words touch the mouth and the mind is as a glass of wine. It’s more than just quenching one’s thirst, it’s enjoying the different aspects of the fluid. The same could be said for the band’s first impression. The Vision Bleak, the name appears as an archaic construction of words to me. And I like those, especially in English. It is one of the reasons I enjoy the tales of H.P. Lovecraft, who happens to be one the main inspirations for the band. But enough of this rather snobbish drooling over names. So the names appeal to me, what about the visual aspect of the band?
All band pictures are taken in yellowed, brown colours. Like a picture from the early 20th or even late 19th century. And the costumes of the band correspond with this: high hats, canes with knobs, and more of those items. It’s a gimmick I really like. And it suits the horror tales told in the songs. The Vision Bleak, inspired by the grand H.P. Lovecraft, sing about horror. The living dead, the “untamed and ferocious wolfman”, the horrors of Antarctica (inspired on the story At the Mountains of Madness) and even the Devil himself are given their song on this album. People who know Lovecraft might experience the same horror is I do: what you do not see or know is often much more frightening than what you do see. Horror movies nowadays are more gore movies, the subtle touch of the unknown horror lost. Without the late 19th, early 20th century gimmick the stories would lose a lot of their power and credibility. A werewolf lost in the city of the 21st century isn’t half as frightening as a werewolf a century earlier, dwelling in the unlit streets of a village or the foggy roads of a dark wood. Scenes I image much more easier in the past than in the present.
The gimmick with its names and setting in time is perfect for me. And for the music. The Deathship Has A New Captain has the biggest diversity in the discography of The Vision Bleak. There are nine songs on the album, each with it own style and tempo. The first song on the album is A Shadow Arose. “Since the beginning of Time there was darkness, and with darkness came fear.” That’s it. The tone is set, the atmosphere is brought to life while these words are spoken by a old man’s croaking voice, accompanied by an eerie piano. As soon as the man finishes, a ghostly woman’s voice takes over and sings incomprehensible words about an undescribed horror. The sound of the piano dies, and after a short silence a harpsichord-like string sound begins. Deep and dark. A fast hit on the drums and the music explodes. A fast, thrashy part breaks loose. Eerie keyboards, fast guitars, aggressive drumming. And then Konstanz starts singing. In his very understandable way of singing he sings of the signs of the approaching horror, the living dead. He is accompanied by a keyboard sound that sounds somewhat like a pan flute. A sound that isn’t scary in any way, but it does the trick here. It isn’t scary, but it embodies the spooky nature of the living, it is a reference to older times. When such stupid sounds were scary. If you imagine the song being performed live, Schwadorf and Konstanz outfitted with their early 20th century clothes it gets even better.
And then Wolfmoon begins. In a malignant voice Konstanz sings about the full moon, its light cast on the moorlands where a young maiden still dwells. The music has a lower tempo, the traditional guitars, bass and drums accompanied by the instruments Shadows Philharmonic String Ensemble. It takes a while before you even notice the strings are there, but they contribute a lot to the atmosphere to the music. As the song goes on, the atmosphere gets more dramatic, the strings gain in importance. A high voiced woman joins Konstanz in singing. This song is of a different style than the previous one. But it is beyond doubt fitted for this album and this band, with its horror and little details to add mystery to the music. Wolfmoon was by the way the very first song I ever heard of The Vision Bleak, and I was sold after the first note.
The Vision Bleak continues to surprise and entertain throughout the entire album. The catchy chorus of Horror Of Antartica, “Tekeli-li, tekeli-li”, stays surprisingly long in the memory after listening to this song. In Elizabeth Dane we get the most creepy of all songs: it’s a piano dominated song, without real lyrics but with a whispering storyteller. He brings the contribution of his voice to that of the instruments, so I dare to call this one an instrumental. The other songs vary between fast, slow, hopeless and malignant, thrashy and melodic. It’s very hard to sit still while listening to this album. Your head will be banged. And yet you will enjoy the songs and their contents.
The Vision Bleak is a band of two experienced musicians. Both Konstanz and Schwadorf have been a member of several other bands and projects. And that can be heard on The Deathship Has A New Captain. The album has a very good sound: the guitars are played in (I have been told so by someone with more knowledge about instruments) “C-drop”, providing a dark and heavy sound for the music. And this heaviness makes you bang your head throughout most of the album. The vocals are, as already mentioned, very understandable and done by a deep voice. Sometimes just an omniscient observer of the stories in the songs, at other times a malignant spirit who enjoys the horror sung about. Because the lyrics can be understood very easy, the contents of the songs and their stories are of great weight on this album. The Vision Bleak thus provides both musical pleasure as well as storytelling entertainment.
I recommend The Vision Bleak to all fans of H.P. Lovecraft, lovers of dark atmosphere, those who like pompous names and everyone who enjoys good, catchy metal.