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A charming if unspectacular slab of power metal - 75%

Andromeda_Unchained, December 3rd, 2012

Man, it feels like I’ve come back to this album time and time again. Jaron Sebastian Raven’s Virtuocity was another vehicle for the neo-classical shredder’s undeniably Finnish style of power metal. I received this album for Christmas back when I was first getting into the genre, and whilst I found a few albums of better quality under the tree that year, Secret Visions has always had me coming back.

I always preferred Virtuocity to Kenziner, and out of the two albums Virtuocity put out, I’d have to say this is the most enjoyable. This also came out around a time Marco Heitala was guest spotting on just about every Finnish power metal release, and the resident Nightwish maestro features as the lead vocalist on two of the tracks here on Secret Visions. While I love Marco’s vocals, I’ll come upfront straight away in saying I could have done without his presence here. The album’s main vocalist, Peter James Goodman, is a superb singer and his voice is perfectly matched to the band’s neo-classically tinged power metal, with a husky delivery not too far from the likes of Mats Levén etc. My problem with Marco is that he features lead vocals on the album’s first song, and I remember finding it misleading on my first listen to Secret Visions.

That isn’t to say the Marco lead tracks aren’t awesome, as in all fairness they are. “Eye For An Eye” is an absolutely kick-ass album opener, although “Speed Of Light” blows this song out of the water. This might come across as controversial, but I have to say that “Speed Of Light” is one of, if not the finest tracks I’ve heard Marco sing on. The performances across the album are awesome, with loads of double kicking drums and enough guitar and keyboard noodling to sate the appetite of any shred nut. The first half of Secret Visions is a tour-de-force in Finnish power metal, and it’s a shame that second half of the album lets things down a little. Although “Raging Destiny” is enough to keep the listener hanging around to the end, with its crazy neo-classical middle section.

Overall I’d happily recommend Virtuocity, especially to the neo-classical power metal fan. The album isn’t without its flaws, but if you can find it for a good price I can guarantee it a good investment for the first half of the album alone. Those who find themselves preferring the muscular German approach to the genre should probably proceed with caution though. For fans of At Vance, Stratovarius, Celesty and Dreamtale.

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