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Over the Top Orchestrations, Decent Music - 70%

TheStormIRide, March 11th, 2013

“Delta”, the fourth full length album from Austrian symphonic power metal act, Visions of Atlantis, is their first release to feature vocalist Maxi Nil. Anyone who has followed the band to some degree knows that they have been plagued with close to as many lineup changes as Iced Earth, but somehow they continue to roll forward. “Delta” continues where the previous albums left off, showcasing melodic power metal with heaps of symphonic elements and orchestrations out the wazoo. It also shows the band toying with a more radio-friendly, gothic tinged sound, as well.

Maxi Nil is a fairly strong, mid range singer,, but she seems to be trying too hard to match the symphonic style of the band. There are some slower, less orchestrated parts that show her as a great and confident singer, but when she tries to do the Tarja tinged operatic style, it falls somewhat flat. It should also be noted that the male vocals suffer from the same syndrome: they sound good when the singer does a more hard rock / AOR approach, but when he tries a more operatic style it's extremely forced and flat. Speaking of forced and out of place, “Conquest of Others” shows two different and distinct styles of harsh vocals: one being a raspy take on metalcore and the other being a deeper, grunt style. These harsher styles pop up here and there, but thankfully aren't the norm.

The music ranges from a fast paced melodic style of power metal, similar to Dark Moor, to a slower, more gothic inspired style. While the band is competent musically, both Maxi and the male vocalist shine brighter when the music slows down and they stick a more standard delivery, like on “New Dawn”. The fast paced sections have chugging guitars riffs, double bass runs, soaring lead work and, as with everything else here, comes backed by a nonstop wall of string inspired orchestrations, shown on the album opener “Black River Delta”. The slower style has subtle melodic guitar lines twining alongside piano segments, once again backed by an onslaught of orchestrated keyboard music, but vocals shine brighter. Honestly, I don't think there's any free air space at all as the keys and orchestrations are so slathered on so thick: frankly it becomes too much by the end of the album.

Even though Visions of Atlantis is technically a power metal band, they sound best on “Delta” when slowed down to a more gothic inspired sound. Both vocalists sound more comfortable with the slower sections and it allows them to present a more emotional output. This is something that Visions of Atlantis would capitalize on their next full length album, “Ethera”, but it's only sporadic here. The music on both the fast and slower sections is good, but everything comes together much more fluidly on these slower, more radio-friendly sections.

If “Delta” did nothing else, it allowed Visions of Atlantis to begin to toy more with slower sections and begin the initial steps of phasing out their power metal leanings. While “Delta” is still a power metal album, it opened the doors for Visions of Atlantis to find a new niche, and one that would help differentiate them from the crowd a little more. “Delta” is a decent album, but it's nothing overly special. Find this if you dig female fronted metal, but you'd be better suited to pick “Ethera” first.

Written for The Metal Observer:
http://www.metal-observer.com/

Tickets to Atlantis, One Way Only - 76%

Liquid_Braino, September 22nd, 2012

I have to wonder if Thomas Caser is an agreeable fellow, considering that he remains the only member of Vision Of Atlantis' current entourage whose been there through thick and thin since their inception without taking an extended break or permanent leave of absence. He has to be either this "fly on the wall" character perched behind his drum-kit observing numerous feuds and hair-yanking between bandmates with detached amusement, or a sordid deviant who trashes hotel rooms and tosses whiskey bottles at his drum techs while whistling at the female singer's buttocks. Either way, the man is an immovable monolith amongst such a revolving door entity. Visions Of Atlantis doesn't accurately fit a band persona whatsoever, but alternatively resembles a project by which musicians join under that moniker to wax philosophical and record symphonic metal music for an interim of time until replacements arrive.

Plagued by a plethora of lineup changes, it's amazing that this group still exists, grinding out new material and touring after receiving a jolt of fresh and eager new faces between album releases. What is also significant is that the evolution of their music remains markedly persistent despite the numerous abrupt performer adjustments. From the marshmallow shitstorms of their early material, through the improved yet still average effort in Trinity by which the packaging and comeliness of Melissa Ferlaak triumph in notability over the musical contents, up to this release, the ascension remains a steady flow upwards in ecumenical quality.

Although it lacks the pure crystalline polish of recent Edenbridge or Nightwish recordings, those behind the knobs more than capably separated the instruments to easily discernible levels to avoid a potential symphonic morass effect. Keyboards swirl and encompass the metal backbone ceaselessly, providing an equal degree of melodies as the guitars, which could render most novice engineers dealing with these songs bed-ridden thanks to each instrument vying for bombastic supremacy. In the case of this album, balance between instruments is maintained, aside from a few relatively inconsequential incidents of muddiness.

As with many acts of this nature, vocals are usually regarded as a key ingredient and often the primary distinguishing feature, and Visions Of Atlantis on this occasion deliver the goods. Maxi Nil's name may be deciphered as "a whole lotta nothing", and she may not add a new dimension to the band's sound, but her delivery is no less potent and professional than her immediate predecessor, and despite the roots of her singing career firmly planted with the goth genre, her admittedly minor tremor of a transition to pure symphonic pastures was a seamless shift. Male counterpart Mario Plank possesses the more unusual pipes of the two by circumventing the more standard approaches of vibrato-drenched pseudo operatics, death grunts or lunkhead gang shouts. His technique rather suggests an 80's cock-rock swagger more befitting a performer who dons a headband and a strategically torn leopard print shirt while pumping his fist at the crowd with reckless abandon. Together they form an agreeable team rattling off the lyrics with aplomb while never crossing the line into over-emoting drama and self-parody.

The album starts off strong, with "Black River Delta" providing a strong overview as to what constitutes this band at their foremost capabilities. Symphonic as hell and backed by driving rhythms, the opener balances sweeping majestic passages with metallic fortitude while Maxi belts her opening lines with zeal. Her vocals are not pushed to the forefront production-wise, thus she becomes a piece in the overall puzzle rather than the main focal point. In this instance it works in establishing an all encompassing vision of bombast, and likewise on a few other occasions during this album that degree of quality is duplicated.

Truth be told, the album is somewhat front-loaded, with the following two tracks completing the list of paramount songs within Delta. "Memento" is the epic track, gliding through various tempos and riffs deftly to the point where even some odd clunkiness towards the song's climax involving drunk pirates warbling lyrics that seem to involve spiritual enlightenment can be forgiven. "New Dawn" is the requisite short catchy mid-tempo number with the all-important focus on love and a snazzy hook for a chorus. Yeah, trite it is, but damn, that chorus is almost maniacally catchy and the tune has a nice overall 'punch' to it, though softened a bit by keyboard pomp.

And that is what eventually brings this album down from what began as an excellent release. The persistent orchestral programming and keyboard melodies wafting over the entire proceedings gets tiresome as the album soldiers on from track to track with no relief from the incessant embellishments that half the time aren't even necessary. If the revolving door policy of the band continues unabated, I'd like to see keyboardist Martin Harb take a hiatus since he obviously wants to drench every second of every song with his ostentatious presence.

This release doesn't completely falter after the formidable opening momentum though thanks to a few choice cuts that offer a bit of variation. "Reflection" is the ubiquitous power ballad that gives Maxi a chance to seize the spotlight, and she pulls off her showcase admirably. "Conquest Of Others" is Mario's shining moment, channeling a Pain Of Salvation vocal delivery while Nintendo missiles rain down from the heavens onto Yoshi's Island. "Twist Of Fate" is notable for the cheerful keyboard melodies in the background (I'll give Martin a free pass for this one) that, combined with the mid-paced metal chugs, accord the song with a positive and even "cute" vibe, in a good way. Finally there's the instrumental "Sonar", which perfectly envisions the band members, after treacherous travels and hardships, finally reaching that vista displayed on the album's cover sleeve where the mysteries of life are revealed in all their shimmering glory. Or maybe not...who fucking knows?

As for the rest, including the final track, there's generally nothing loathsome about them, but they do little to perk the ears thanks to the bloated symphonics and rehashed rhythms. The prevalent sound of the band works well enough for a certain extent, but by not changing the dynamics at any point throughout the recording, it can hurt the accessibility of the later tracks which need all the help they can get since the most memorable tunes in terms of songcraft are firmly entrenched at the commencement. Without a doubt, though, this is currently the band's finest achievement, and if they can stick together as a team for once, focus on strong and varied compositions with an edgier vibe and regulate the amount of keyboard slush appropriated, they might just cross that barrier towards the upper tier of symphonic power-tinged female-fronted acts. It can't be that hard, can it?

Finally this band reach their full potential - 70%

TrooperOfSteel, April 30th, 2012

Austria’s Visions of Atlantis has been a talented symphonic power/gothic metal bands that has just been overshadowed since their inception by the more popular and successful bands within the same genre. Within Temptation, Epica, Nightwish, Edenbridge, Xandria and After Forever would all be mentioned before Visions of Atlantis, which is unfortunate.

The band has continued to plug away since their beginnings in 2000 and had released three albums to 2007 (not including their latest), but aside from the group trying to find their right niche and sound, perhaps one reason why they haven’t taken off like the bands mentioned above is the massive amount of musician turnover. Since 2000, only two of the original six members remain (drummer Thomas Caser and guitarist Werner Fielder), and overall there has been nine past members (the ninth leaving after the release of the latest album’); which includes four vocalists.

Visions of Atlantis’ first three albums were all natural progressions of each other and while they were fairly decent sound-wise, there just seemed to be something missing or something not quite right or where it should be. Male vocalist Mario Plank, who joined in 2003 and remains to this day, stood out like a sore thumb for all the wrong reasons when he debuted on ‘Cast Away’. His vocals were at times horrendously un-metal, high-pitched and just plain aggravating; spoiling most fans enjoyment of the CD. His style was not suited to the band’s sound, but to my surprise he has stuck around and managed to improve his vocal style and delivery.

Between the debut and now their latest release, ‘Delta’, Visions of Atlantis have cycled through four female vocalists, the third singer Joanna Nieniewska didn’t even last long enough to record an album, however the fourth and current vocalist is Greek native Maxi Nil (On Thorns I Lay, ex-Elysion), who seems to be the best and most consistent of the bunch. Similar to other gothic/symphonic female vocalists around at the moment, Maxi brings a passion and presence that has been missing in this band for quite a while.

While Visions of Atlantis’ previous efforts have lacked power and enthusiasm, particularly from the drums and guitars, ‘Delta’ proves to be a big improvement in that area, with stronger song-writing across the album. The songs are much more creative, bombastic and enjoyable; rather than weak, predictable and lack-lustre that had been the case mostly with the first two releases. It seems the band has listened and learned from the bigger bands in their genre, and whilst not completely copying their successful styles, have taken some of their structures and arrangements to benefit their own cause.

The epic “Memento” is definitely a stand-out track which surprised me the most. With choirs and an orchestra, the tracks is fluent in harmony, emotion and extravagance; while Maxi asserts herself in the centre singing with commanding, yet angelic tones. With strong guitar riffs and energetic synths and keys, even male vocalist Mario adds a nice touch overall to the song. Despite some songs being fairly straightforward and pretty much forgettable after the disc has stopped (“New Dawn”, “Reflection”), there are some that are very well done and arguably Visions of Atlantis’ best constructed and delivered songs to date; a definite plus while this band is trying to re-invent themselves.

The best three – “Where Daylight Fails”, “Conquest of Others” and “Elegy of Existence” are all kick ass tracks that are memorable, catchy and executed with precision. “Elegy of Existence” is a great mid to fast-paced track, with both Mario and Maxi contributing 50/50 down the line. Exceptional and powerful guitar riffs, inside a bombastic and symphonic blast of orchestral sound makes for a great listening experience. “Conquest Of Others” is a darker-edged track, featuring mainly Mario on vocals, but singing in a dark grating and raspy tone, with Maxi coming in during the chorus with angelic cries. The guitars riffs are somewhat down-tuned throughout the song, while the orchestration features horns and any other instrument to deliver added bass, the end result is an incredible song of emotion and power.

Lastly, “Where Daylight Fails” is a more light-hearted and upbeat track that includes a vocal duel between Maxi and Mario. Again the standout is the orchestration, the vocals, the guitar riffs and the memorable chorus. Another song worth mentioning to round off the CD is the album closer “Gravitate Towards Fatality”, which is a great song, powerful and bombastic and a top way to finish the disc.

In the end I was quite surprised with Visions of Atlantis’ vast improvement from previous discs and it’s great to see this band finally settle down with a line-up that has seemed to have worked for them thus far (going by the end result of ‘Delta’). Maxi’s vocals do play a big part in the album’s success and hopefully she will stick around and stay with the band for a long time. With so many musicians coming in and out of this band over the past few years, it would have pushed back important progress the band really needed over that period of time. But persistence ultimately pays off and Visions of Atlantis have created (in my opinion) their most consistent album to date. Yes, there are a couple of fillers on the CD and the material on show here is not new, but it is however entertaining and definitely worth tracking down if you are a fan of symphonic power/gothic metal and bands like Epica, Within Temptation, Nightwish, Sirenia and Edenbridge are on your favourites list.

Originally written for www.themetalforge.com

Visions of Atlantis - Delta - 70%

Lord_Lexy, April 6th, 2011

The Austrian band Visions of Atlantis serves symphonic power metal. I didn't know the band's music, but I "had heard the name". I'm familiar with the genre and occasionally I can enjoy some of the really cheesy stuff it sometimes produces (Rhapsody of Fire! Nightwish!). Now how does Delta sound?

The band uses both a male and a female vocalist. No singer/guitarist as other bands tend to have, but two full time singers. That could create some very interesting vocal interaction, but does this interaction actually happen? Yes, and no. During some songs she does most of the singing (Reflection), during some other songs he does most of the singing (Conquest of Others) and some songs have both of them singing with equal importance, but nearly never really together. What I like to hear in mixed gender vocals are "dialogues", with both singers alternating. That doesn't really happen on this album and is a missed chance. The chorus of Elegy of Existence hears this but it's over before you really realize it happened. What we do have is for example Twist of Fate: he sings and she can be heard on the background. In the chorus they do sing the same lines, but it's not quite the same as what I really like. Both he and she know how to control their voice: there are no false notes although I had to get used to the male vocals. Too bad they didn't do something really interesting...

The instrumental part of the music is good, but you've heard it all before. After five songs it feels like you've heard the entire album. Bad thing? Not really: the songs are good quality and something really bad can not be found on the album. There is a ballad, which seems obligatory for any album in the genre and its not really overwhelming. Reflection turns out to be a stereotype ballad: it begins with only female vocals and piano/keyboard. After a while the drums join in and the song gains a little power. Halfway through the song there is a short guitarsolo and the picture is complete. A ballad following the ancient recipe. Bad? No, but not my cup of tea.

The other songs do contain the guitars that we as metalfans all love. Black River Delta is a great opener: it begins with a few keyboard lines, and then the guitars and fast drums kick in. Ha, got to love it! It sounds a little epic, not in the least because of the Alladin-like keyboard melody that you can hear at some points. This presence of keyboards makes the music sound a little bigger, and is an important part of the music's character.

Delta is not a modest album: symphonic metal means big and bombastic! The song vary between fast and slow ones, like the slower Memento following the fast opener. These changes ensure you don't listen to the same song over and over again.

Lots of really catchy riffs and melodies you won't find on Delta, but fans of female fronted/symphonic power metal will appreciate this album. The main reason I didn't give the album a higher reason is the absence of some really interesting male/female vocal interaction.

Originaly written in Dutch for Ashladan.be.

Majestic! - 100%

Daniel_2007_Pendulum, March 11th, 2011

I think that all of us, or at least many of us, remember those days back in 2007, when Visions of Atlantis released their 3rd studio album, “Trinity”. The album showed what a band can do with effort, patience and creativity: in only 5 years, the band renewed their sound from a keyboard-based power metal with little symphonic tunes, to a more mature form of symphonic power metal where the combination of solid guitar sounds and an orchestra get along with each other while keeping a place for the fantasy themes the band is well known for. But then the storm came: VoA parted ways with their most talented female singer until then (Melissa Ferlaak), and for a while the golden dream broke into pieces: maybe the band would never achieve the same quality in the future… until now. 2011 has come to prove us (or maybe just me) wrong, that Visions of Atlantis still has a long way to go, and that the only way a young band can move forward after such hard times, is to forget, forgive and bet to evolution.

In order to make their comeback to the metal scene, the band hired a new female singer, Maxi Nil. Although she is not an opera-style singer like Melissa Ferlaak, she has brought something more valuable to a young band with her: tons of experience! These 4 years, the experience and versatility of their new female singer and the brave decision of going further into symphonic metal instead of turning into pure power metal promoted the development of the band’s latest effort, “Delta”.

“Delta” is the final proof of the talent Visions of Atlantis has always had. The album itself is enough to give the band a nice place in the symphonic metal scene. The way the fantasy themes and the maturity and integrity of the sound the band has developed after 11 years of history (9 if we count only since the release of their debut album) are fused together cannot be found easily among most bands, even among those that have lasted for more than 15 or 20 years. The band has grown up, so let’s take a look on the new things VoA has to offer.
Musically, “Delta” may sound very close to its predecessor (“Trinity”) to all those who are not into symphonic metal extensively. For those who have heard more of the subgenre, “Delta” is far more complex, as the use of the orchestra becomes more and more sophisticated, even within this album alone, ranging from accompaniment only (“Black River Delta”, “Conquest of Others”, “Twist of Fate”) to those sections where the orchestra becomes the main element of the music (“Where Daylight Falls”, “Reflection”, “Gravitate Towards Fatality” and, of course, the instrumental “Sonar”). The guitars equilibrate the orchestral work and keep the main musical elements of VoA’s original sound: powerful PM solos, harsh sections and, of course, many parts where the guitar section may become too simple but it’s far from being so (“New Dawn” is the best example of this situation). The rhythm section provides most of the time the basis of the sound, failing to become prominent; if we were talking about an extreme metal subgenre, the rhythm section remaining hidden would be unforgivable, but in the case of symphonic metal, the orchestra or the keyboards can contribute and compensate largely the relative absence of a prominent bass or drums. However, we can find many interesting drums through the album, such as a few double kickings at the beginning, for example.

The vocals shall be analyzed separately from the rest of the music due to the fact that there are many new elements and resources in “Delta” that cannot be found in anything the band had released before. As it is common among female-fronted metal bands, the vocals section relies heavily on the female vocals, as they are used more prominently. However, the same way it was shown in “Trinity” but in a more developed way, the male vocals also play a key role here, and they are used often one after another or together. In the song “New Dawn”, even a little growling can be heard, making us wonder how VoA would sound like if they were used more frequently.

The lyrics follow the same trend Visions of Atlantis is well-known for: fantasy themes told with dramatic colors and a delicate equilibrium between quiet moments and more intense peaks. However, the band moved on to reflect more mature lyrics, using the imagination of the listener to create the fantasy worlds that are described through the album, making it difficult to find explicit references to these imaginary places in the lyrics.

Conclusion: Visions of Atlantis has returned to the music scene with a jewel, a product of their effort and dedication, nurturing their innate talent as it keeps on growing stronger. “Delta” is a new step of the band, their best achievement so far, and probably the best album of the first half of its year. In one word: majestic!

A New Era In Atlantis - 78%

DarkSymphony500, February 25th, 2011

A long 4 year wait since the last album Trinity, Visions of Atlantis are back and more exceeding than ever before with a new collection of songs and again a new female singer. The band has really worked hard creating Delta and stands as being their greatest achievement to date.

As with many (and most) metal fans who have listened to VoA before, the band has been criticized for the lack of originality and constant comparisons to the leading symphonic band Nightwish. I have given Delta many spins and still feel that originally is still a problem, so if you're here and looking for something different than your ordinary female-fronted symphonic (Nightwish) sound, you won't find it here.

Onto the music, the elements here on Delta are much more dynamic and a much stronger use of powerful orchestrations which brings out the magic and force of the album. Orchestrations in metal now are getting quiet overused like, for example, the bands Dimmu Borgir, Edenbridge and SepticFlesh, who have all used a real, full orchestras. For VoA, they rely most of the sound of their orchestrations on keyboard synths, which again brings back the early Nightwish influences.

The guitar and bass work haven’t really changed that much since previous album Trinity, but still packs a strong boost of power and heaviness throughout the album. The drumming is not too bad either with lots of blasting beats in trademark power metal style. Still, this is typical, but a very solid symphonic power metal sound.

The vocals have generally improved thanks to the new female singer, Maxi Nil, who is a fine vocalist and does a superb job singing. Her voice has moved away from the previous operatic style of the last singer and into more of a rock style which finally brings them out of the opera metal category. Mario (the male singer) also does great as his vocals are much more aggressive than before and even with sounding a slight tinge of heavy metal vocals.

The tracks are set out evenly throughout the album with some of those overlooked fillers that many pure metallers may avoid. Songs range from a 1 and half minute atmospheric interlude to an over 6 and half minute epic. As you play the first song (Black River Delta) of the album, you are immediately hit with keyboard orchestrations, full-on power metal blasts, and Maxi Nil's voice all in 30 seconds. Already the albums starts off great and promising and maybe you'll listen further. I won't give away much else, so it's your choice to listen to the rest. The album doesn't give away many surprises, but it does play lots of fun and catchy tracks for anyone to pick their favourite and repeat, but all this positive talk does come with its price. Because of the band being too similar as other bands, after about 3 or 4 listens of the whole album it can get pretty boring and you may want to skip to something else.

Delta all in all has its highs, but also has its lows which brings my rating down. Such as that in some of the tracks, it feels like it's just cut off and unfinished, like the band got bored with editing and decided to leave it as it is (maybe not the case, but who knows?).

Although the vocal duties are used in as duets in some songs, you have Mario singing a bit more than Maxi does. Some of you may like more male vocals, others may get tired of the same vocals. And then there's that huge originality problem again which has the biggest affect on the band. Feelings of the same old song structures, same old sound (musically and vocally), and the lyrics, which aren't so bad, but are a little cheesy at times.

Visions of Atlantis has reached their top game here with Delta, maybe not a masterpiece of symphonic metal, but a rock solid one at that. Will the band maybe do something different next time? Time will tell. Overall, this is a big recommendation to any fans of female0fronted metal, melodic power metal, and orchestral/symphonic music.

Atlantis...farewell.