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Visions of Atlantis – Ethera
CD Reviews
Written by Doctor T.   
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Visions of Atlantis CD Review
Ethera
Visions of Atlantis - Ethera
 

CD Info

2013

Napalm Records / Austria 
9 Tracks

English Lyrics


 

It’s hard to imagine a bad release from VoA. I mean, that could only be interpreted as the first sign of the Apocalypse. And in that scenario, who has time to listen to music. But that’s not the case here, the customary excellence continues, but with some different parameters, some altered musical constructs and, some different personnel. Vocally there are no changes, at least personnel wise. Male vocals are again handled by long time VoA vocalist Mario Plank and, although there is a slightly different approach on several tracks, you’re unlikely to miss the voice. . . I mean, Jay-Z he ain’t, thank God. Female vocals are again handled by one of our favorite Greek Godess’s, Maxi Nil who seems to have settled into the role rather nicely and continues what has always been one of the major strengths of the VoA sound. The band, with the exception of Maxi, is from Styria, Austria. And they’ve been at this game for a while. They’ve gone through some female vocalists, all of them as good as it gets and Maxi continues this theme.

So, the good news is most of you know VoA and are familiar with the typical excellence we expect from this band. The bad news is I don’t really have a lot of things to point to that would familiarize you with the tracks. It’s just a little early, and that’s one of the bad things about doing a review of a work that hasn’t yet been released. There are some little production samples, like this one and this one which features guest bass guitar player Fabio D’Amore from Serenity. Beyond that, sorry dudes. But, you know YouTube will be full of this stuff before long and trust me, it’ll be worth the wait.

Well, I was able to interact with Maxi on this one, get her perspective on things, and I’ll share that information here. It’s more than a little interesting; Maxi is rarely anything less than a delight to talk to. And the focus here will be on the lyrics, which are, for the most part, developed by keyboard man Martin Harb and Maxi. And, good as the music is, those lyrics may be better. Maybe as good as anything I’ve ever heard. And, although I may be a little lacking as a musician, I do know a thing or two about lyrics, having worked with some of the big names back in the day. Course, those lyrics were a little less intellectual than what we typically get in the Gothic arena, but I’m just trying to establish creds here, give me a break.

The first thing I asked Maxi had to do with the evolution of the sound on this release, it is a bit different, substantially in some respects. In my opinion, a very positive move forward, one that takes them to a new territory, without loosing any of the beauty and the metal that the band is famous for. Her response, "With this album we all wanted to bring VoA to a higher level and modernize our sound. We worked very hard for this and we think that this is the best album we ever released." Very likely so, and moving forward is never something to be viewed negatively, especially when the results are as positive as these are.

The changes in the music include some alterations to the vocals. We get a significantly greater male involvement here, and Maxi’s vocals take a more aggressive tone. Now Maxi is generally, at least in my view, seen as having a beautiful voice, rich in texture, haunting, lovely on many occasions. Here, there is a more dramatic turn to harder sounds, some of them approaching nu metal territory. Of course, that’s not always the case, she still does the beautiful, but the sound is still groundbreaking in some respects. And significantly so. Maxi didn’t disagree, "Mario and I worked all the songs together and gave each song what we felt that it needed. We just want to scream it out loud that this is who we both really are." You’ll see some different vocals on this release, enjoyable, but different.

It’s not just the vocals that have had some alterations; there are some instrumental changes as well. Cris Tian is now the guitarist, and there is an alteration to that part of the band as a result. Maybe a little more guitar involvement at some points. The Harb keyboards seem to get a more solid involvement as well, more symphonics never hurt anything in my opinion, ain’a. Maxi commented on this evolution as well, "Since Cris Tian and I were also involved in the songwriting process it is normal to have new sound elements in this album and with Ethera we all wanted to make people feel that this is a new era for the band."

Cool, well, let’s get to the music; Ethera is a multifaceted production, with a lot of strong points. It’s hard to concentrate on just one. And, again, it’s probably worthwhile to let Maxi address the subject, "Like on previous works as well we have a constant red line going through the album actually. And this red line deals with uprising and the downfall, reaching from the real personal failure AND dystopian visions of failing societies through different times and cultures which is the biggest part of the album AND the downfall of morality existing constantly through all songs (In Hypnotized an economic-political dying morality for instance, in Vicious Circle and Cave behind the Waterfall there is more a feeling of inner fight, or personal failure). All these different risings to decadence and later ‘downfalls’ are the concept of Ethera, and these ideas are always put into different metaphors like contemporary Wars (A.E.O.N. or Bestiality), religious break-downs mixed with economical catastrophes (like Tlalocs Grace dealing with the Aztecs` culture and their religious insanity denying their economic downfall until the end), mythical topics including personal failure and ‘burdens’ like in Burden of Divinity, where a god is broken inside because she knows she`d never have to chance to die and so leave this cold world." Well, we’ve left Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Southern Rockers in the dust here. It doesn’t get much more interesting than that.

The CD kicks off with The Ark, and this one pretty much defines the work. Lots of interesting symphonics, but more male vocals than previously seen with the band. And, maybe better male vocals, Mario has grown substantially as a vocalist. But, Maxi drives her parts with an aggressive nature we have not seen before with VoA. We are driven lyrically to the direction Maxi described above:

This is the entrance, the past awakes, / another culture, another dominion breaks
This is the End, this is our way, / there`s nothing left and nothing left to say

You won’t find a bad track on the CD. Most of them are pretty upbeat, rockers with a heavy symphonic component. Tlaloc’s Grace was certainly one that interested me. Maxi addressed it a little above but my interest was such that I asked her for further comment. It’s the "beautiful" cut on the CD in some respects, although it does evolve into a guitar driven metal thing of beauty after that soft intro. She expanded on the comments above saying, "Tlaloc was an important deity in Aztec religion, a god of rain, fertility, and water. He was a beneficent god who gave life and sustenance, but he was also feared for his ability to send hail, thunder and lightning, and for being the lord of the powerful element of water. This song was inspired by the movie Apocalypto.=-)" This is the "haunting" track on the CD.

Another that caught my eye was A.E.O.N. 19TH. Again, this one rocks, the vocals crawl all over each other in an orgy of metal delight. But, even after reading the lyrics, I didn’t actually pick up the message.

So many lives sacrificed but for nothing they have died
strength to ride for a world killed by day and night
It’s so many lives, a breathing sacrifice,
but for what they died, an uncountable price,
a pandemonium without a pendulum,
system elementum without its ….CERIUM
They`re walking through madness to be an Aeon of my doom,
Cerium lost and gone like the reaper`s pendulum!

Clearly, there’s history somewhere in this recounting. But, Maxi’s explanation took me by surprise, "A.E.O.N.19th is directly influenced by the battle of Stalingrad being just beyond words when it comes to cruelty, dying morality, brainless ideology and much more. A.E.O.N.19th means by the way: All ended on November 19th, because this was the day the red Russian army closed the circle around the German 6th army and was actually the moment of the beginning of the German downfall, later the downfall of Adolf Hitler and the beginning of a later divided Europe." Well, now you know something historically you probably didn’t know before. Just one added benefit.

There’s a lot of good music here, and more than a few interesting lyrics. You’re gonna like it, you’re gonna like it a lot. The Maxi Nil version of VoA is up at the top of the heap in our style of music, and it looks like they’re gonna stay there for a long time. Solid metal, solid vocals, solid across the board.

10 / 10

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