Released: 2007, Scarlet Records
It's beginning to look like Italian power-prog masterminds Vision Divine are taking the King Diamond route of only writing concept albums as well as revisiting and continuing previously-told tales...such is certainly the case on 2007's THE 25TH HOUR, which is a continuation of the complex psychologically-based story told in 2004's STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS release, furthering the progress of the search within the mind for the 'true self.' Once again, former Labyrinth guitarist Olaf Thorsen has crafted a superb platter of often-heavy yet always melodically accessible music that combines the best elements of progressive and Euro-power metal into an impressive package.
Like prior album THE PERFECT MACHINE, the new release was produced by Timo Tolkki at New Sin Studios and benefits from clear, sharp production and excellent instrumental and vocal balance, assuring nothing is drowned out in the mix. Overall, this album shows Vision Divine continuing to mature as a band, spending less time showing off their impressive instrumental prowess and more time concentrating on songwriting. Thorsen and keyboardist Alessio Lucatti still get plenty of opportunities to break out with amazing solo tradeoffs, but the leads are never the focus, but rather embellishments to the strength of the songs. Musician's Institute VIT graduate Michele Luppi delivers another stellar performance, usually sticking with his mid-to-high range melodic style but occasionally unleashing incredible high screams like the one near the end of standout cut "Eyes Of A Child," a power-metal gallop very much in the vein of Stratovarius's better moments. Progressive rock influences also make themselves abundantly clear, especially on cuts like "Essence Of Time," which sounds with its groove-tempo rhythm, layered-vocal stylistics, and gorgeous melodic breakdown section like a metallized version of Queen, a comparison which applies equally to the short vocal-and-piano album introductory piece "My Angel Died." Most of the tracks keep it relatively midtempo in terms of speed, but the group does kick into a higher gear on cuts like the speedy title track and "A Perfect Suicide," which features some of the album's best heavy riffs and a great echo-voiced chorus. For variety, there are also some decidedly AOR-moments, especially on "The Daemon You Hide," which if it weren't for the decidedly dark-toned lyrics could easily be a radio hit for the group with its stick-in-your-head-for-days chorus and melodies. Like on previous albums, there is an instrumental piece, in this case the melancholic piano and keyboard-drenched "Waiting For The Dawn." I'm not quite sure why, but when I hear that cut, I can't help but visualize it as the closing-credits theme of a Castlevania game...the composition reminds me of something Michiru Yamane would have come up with.
Fans of epic-length songs and albums may be disappointed to find the disc is only forty-five minutes long and none of the tracks break the six minute mark, but this is a relatively minor complaint when everything is taken into account. Intelligently composed in terms of lyrics, maturely written in terms of music, and near-flawlessly performed in all aspects, THE 25TH HOUR is a more-than-worthy addition to the Vision Divine discography and a must-have for fans of prog-influenced power metal.