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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