Released: 2013, Napalm Records
2013 has started strong for the Austrian melodic/symphonic Power Metal scene with albums by veterans Edenbridge, Serenity and Visions Of Atlantis, so please to enjoy my reviews of all these new albums in this mini-feature.
I don’t know why some of these bands get more than their fair share of criticism. I recently heard a colleague refer to this kind of music as ‘Abba Metal’, as in the Swedish 70’s pop-sensation Abba. This was meant as a mild insult but however, that is actually a compliment because Abba is known the world over for writing world-class, catchy pop songs and a countless string of #1 hit songs. So to mix the song-writing magic of Abba and symphonic Power Metal is a winning formula, one that Visions of Atlantis has perfected and have returned to again.
Visions Of Atlantis have continued with a water theme for the cover art and are still comfortable at home on Napalm Records for album number five. ETHERA doesn’t see too many changes except that original guitarist Werner is out again, after briefly rejoining for the last album DELTA. Christian from Germany is in on guitar and the album has members of Fairyland, Elvenking and in demand drummer Roland (current Dignity, ex- Atrocity, Edenbridge, Leave’s Eyes) Navratil.
There seems to be even reliance of keyboard and some slightly unnerving, techno, keyboard type effects. Fortunately, they are used sparingly and you can’t fault the band for dabbling a bit. For the most part the slightly gothic, symphonic Power Metal sound is intact. Vocalist Maxi Nils has settled nicely into her role and is maybe even easing back on the soprano style and singing in a bit of a lower range. The songs are still bolstered by various sonic components; acoustic piano, keyboards here and there, acoustic guitar, and some symphonic parts. The songs chug along at a mid-tempo pace and even the slower cuts like ‘Vicious Circle’ see Maxi and male singer, Mario play off each other vocally in an excellent power ballad, lush with orchestration and an ever increasing tempo. I’ve read a few reviews that suggest the band has continued to evolve in a more pop direction, but there is still plenty of Metal foundation here for a very enjoyable album. The last cut ‘Cleric’s Emotion’ is very punchy ending the album on a strong note and elsewhere ‘Machina’ is equally strong with chugging guitars and a good tempo, with even a very slight nod to an industrial sound.
ETHERA is another slight step in the bands slow evolution into their own sound, further distancing themselves from early accusations of being a Nightwish clone. Visons Of Atlantis has carved out an identity and of the many bands of this style continue to be one of my favourites. I don’t think I would like to see them stray too much further away from their Metal core, but a tolerant and open-minded fan will find plenty of enjoyable elements and appreciate ETHERA for it’s bombastic sound that embraces a number of styles.