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The Vision Bleak is a Bavaria-based due consisting of Ulf Theodor Schwadorf (ex-Empyrium, Sun Of The Sleepless) and Allen B. Konstanz (ex-Nox Mortis, Ewigheim), and The Deathship Has A New Captain is their debut album, released in 2004. Schwadorf plays guitars and keyboards, and Konstanz plays drums and supplies most of the vocals, with a deep, clean, clearly enunciated vocal style something like Type O Negative’s Peter Steele. All lyrics are in English. The most important thing to say about The Vision Bleak is that they sound absolutely nothing at all like Schwadorf’s previous band, Empyrium. Empyrium began in 1994 as an Opeth-like doom metal band with symphonic leanings, and progressed over the course of their four-album career towards a magnificent all-acoustic neo-folk sound suffused with the spirit of the German Romantic literary and artistic tradition. The Vision Bleak are much more of a metal band, with a lyrical and aesthetic approach drawing on a number of different sources – gothic horror authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker and HP Lovecraft, early German silent cinema, later American horror films, the English Hammer horror films, and a blend of thrash metal, death metal and early goth-rock influences.
The Deathship Has A New Captain contains nine tracks totalling 41 minutes. The album opens with ‘A Shadow Arose’, a brief symphonic curtain-raiser with operatic soprano vocals courtesy of guest singer Dame Pandora of Dark Sanctuary. The Deathship really gets the wind in its sails, however, with the next track, ‘Night Of The Living Dead’, which is a demonically energetic homage, not only to George Romero’s classic Living Dead films, but also to the punky early days of goth rock – I’m thinking of bands like bands like The Misfits and The Damned. The Vision Bleak have always strenuously resisted being identified as a gothic metal band, despite the obvious gothic leanings of their subject matter, but this is because they don’t want to be lumped in with the anaemic aesthetes who have come to dominate the gothic metal genre nowadays, and I’m sure they’d feel no shame in being compared to the founding fathers of goth. A fast, dirty thrash riff is overlaid with spooky theremin for an instant crypt-kicking classic – the best track on the album, as far as I’m concerned. ‘Wolfmoon’ is next, slower and more symphonic, with female backing vocals. ‘Metropolis’, inspired by the famous Fritz Lang film of 1926, is a sermon based on the gospel according to Metallica, with a riff straight out of the Master Of Puppets period. ‘Elizabeth Dane’ is a cover version of John Carpenter’s theme music for his 1980 film The Fog, the Elizabeth Dane being the wrecked ship from which the drowned sailors return to exact their gruesome revenge on the seaport of Antonio Bay. The largely instrumental track is embellished with dialogue samples taken from the film. ‘Horror Of Antarctica’ is the first of several tracks within TVB’s discography to reveal their fascination with cult horror writer HP Lovecraft – the track is based on Lovecraft’s longest novella, At The Mountains Of Madness, which describes terrible, earth-shattering discoveries made by an Antarctic expedition. ‘The Lone Night Rider’ has become TVB’s most popular live track, and like most crowd-pleasers, it’s hardly sophisticated – a headbanger’s delight of chugging, mid-paced metal with a synth hook and a catchy chorus. ‘The Grand Devilry’ is heavier and less bouncy, again drawing on Metallica and perhaps some of the Swedish death metal bands like Therion, Dissection and Entombed. ‘Deathship Symphony’ is obviously intended as a grandiose showstopping production number, with operatic male and female vocals and orchestral string and brass accents – however, I prefer the less ornate pleasures of ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ and ‘The Lone Night Rider’.
Overall, though, Deathship… is a confident and varied debut, with a refreshingly innovative approach to horror-themed metal. The Vision Bleak amply succeed in their self-appointed mission to provide ‘creepy and haunting entertainment’.
This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine: