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A heavier Vision Divine. - 94%

hells_unicorn, July 14th, 2007

At this point in Vision Divine’s career the label of “Labyrinth” clone was in full swing, and perhaps the fact that drummer Mat Stancioiu and keyboardist Andrew McPauls were also in congress at the time lent some credence to the charge. The first album, which preceded this one and had the same line-up, was probably the most Labyrinth-like of the bunch save Fabio Lione’s super-flamboyant opera vocals and a greater electronic/synthesizer presence. This one breaks away from that sound significantly and puts a lot more emphasis on heaviness and riffs, sometimes completely drowning out the keyboards. The overall feel screams a greater sense of aggression, which is further illustrated by such song title choices as “Flame of Hate”, “Pain” and “Apocalypse Coming”. But obviously keep in mind that this is still a power metal album with a lot of pomp and circumstance, which is to be expected from Olaf Thorsen’s end of the creative spectrum.

The opening instrumental “Incipit” sounds a lot like a techno segue in the same sense as was the beginning of “New Eden” on the debut, but what follows it is quite different. The title track has a much darker arrangement, featuring a drum sound that is a lot less mechanical than the previous album, and a darker guitar driven introduction. The keyboards still provide some softer edges to the mix from time to time, but the guitar is clearly dominating the mix. From here on in the songs tend to feature a lot of riff driven sections with tastefully utilized keyboard work. “Pain” has 2 very memorable riffs, one almost reminding me of the guitar line of “Message in a Bottle” by the Police. “Away from you” and “Apocalypse Coming” take the lead in terms of sheer speed, the former featuring the most technical leads, while the latter really showcases Stancioiu’s amazing drumming abilities.

“Black and White” is the closest thing to a ballad on here, and although sporting a rather dream-like piano intro, can’t resist the urge to throw in some galloping guitar riffs and a fast paced chorus. “Taste of Goodbye” also contains some ballad-like elements, including an acoustic guitar track and some piano fill-ins, but doesn’t come anywhere close to the quiet and serene atmosphere that was “Of Light and Darkness”. “Nemesis”, the longer instrumental of the two, is the most synthesizer-driven and almost listens like something you’d hear on Luca Turilli’s “Prophet of the Last Eclipse”, but with a lot more Prog elements and less symphonic tendencies. “Flame of Hate” takes my pick for the best original song on here, mixing the synthesizer elements of the debut with a simplistic guitar groove before launching into more speed metal; not all that far off from the sound heard on the album “Stream of Consciousness”.

Surprisingly the best song on here is not an original, but the remake of the old Aha classic “Take on me”. Although it is tempting to envision this song with tons of insane leads, Vision Divine has elected to take the road of lesser pretension and kept this cover faithful in terms of the notes used. However, not one to be uncreative either, they have elected to really ratchet up the drum work, especially during the chorus. Fabio’s vocal interpretation is what puts it over the top, during the chorus the backing vocal tracks are almost a dead ringer for Ronnie Dio, and the falsetto wails are a lot less girlie sounding than the original version, which may shock Rhapsody detractors.

Out of every Vision Divine release to date, this one is the shortest, the most compact, and ultimately the most accessible to non-Labyrinth/non-Italian power metal fans. It keeps the emphasis on the guitar and utilizes the keyboard in a tasteful fashion similar to the way Stratovarius does. Obviously core-fans of Rhapsody and Labyrinth will be taken in by Lione’s top notch vocal performance and shred fans will eat up Olaf’s insane sweep-picking solos, but this album contains probably the least of those elements of any albums that carry this band’s name. Although I still prefer “Stream of Consciousness” to this one, it rides a very close second, and takes my pick for the most underrated album ever put out by this outfit.