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A majestic, dark and gripping atmosphere - 84%

kluseba, March 27th, 2011

It’s done. Here comes my last review for the last Stratovarius record that I haven’t analyzed yet and I’m finishing on a very high note as “Visons” is one of the best records this band has ever done even if it doesn’t beat the brilliant and underrated “Dreamspace”. But it’s easily the best album with Timo Kotipelto on the vocals. This album has a rather dark and epic atmosphere and a clear guiding line throughout the whole record.

The album kicks off with two amazing singles. Normally, the commercial Stratovarius songs turn out to be ordinary power metal shredding with a catchy chorus and I expected something very predictable and boring. But “The kiss of Judas” is a highly interesting single choice with a dominant pumping bass guitar, chilling acoustic guitars and a mystical and gripping atmosphere. The vocal performance is truly enjoyable and shows us that less is sometimes more. Kotipelto doesn’t sing too high pitched and exaggerated and gives more space to the instrumental section to develop a majestic and slightly eerie atmosphere. This is probably the best single the band has ever put out with the exception of the rare gem “Wings of tomorrow”. “Black diamond” isn’t much weaker and another great single that opens with a soft keyboard sound to develop a truly majestic atmosphere further in the song. There is a really interesting and progressive continuity between the two first tracks.

The band continues in that vein with many of their songs. “Before the winter” is a dreamy, floating and entirely chilling ballad of a very high quality. “Coming home” is the second ballad of the record and makes you want to fly away on a magic carpet. I wish the band would do more ballads of such a high quality and it feels absolutely chilling to listen to them. “The abyss of your eyes” also has a lot of atmosphere and reminds strongly of the style of the first two songs on this record. “Paradise” mixes the atmospheric and progressive side of the band with the usual power metal factor and some strong Iron Maiden influences. The track is a great mixture and reminds me a lot of “22 Acacia Avenue” at some points. In the end comes the best track of the record, the overwhelming masterpiece of diversity and atmosphere called “Visions (Southern Cross)” where the ending almost reminds of a classical symphony or a movie score. Together with “Elysium” and “Mother Gaia”, this song is probably the best epic track the band has ever done and it follows the slightly dark atmosphere of the album.

Even though there are two rather ordinary power metal tracks called “Forever free” and “Legions” that are energizing but not profound enough to ultimately convince and even though there is probably the weakest instrumental song of the band in here with “Holy light” that is quite diversified and progressive but soulless, aimless and without any clear line, atmosphere and magic, the other songs are easily strong enough to rate this album up. Both fans of standard power metal and progressive and atmospheric music should be satisfied with this little gem which is my second favourite record of the Finnish band.