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Visions of Atlantis - Cast Away

Visions of Atlantis -  CD Review
Cast Away

CD Info
Label: Napalm
9 Tracks
Language: English

Visions of Atlantis has a strange power of persuasion over me. Yes, it’s true. Usually when I hear an album sporting only a few standout songs, leaving the rest destined for the skip button, I consider it something of a failure. VOA, however, has given me two such albums, and yet still manage to convince me that they have some worth as a band. Neat trick, but why should this be so? Perhaps it’s because they perform a style of music I am very fond of, and even though they don’t consistently succeed at it, they come through often enough to capture some of my loyalty. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for the type of female vocal ability on display here.

VOA’s first offering Eternal Endless Infinity was a decent enough debut, showing a real spark of talent, but they only truly hit their stride on a few songs (Silence, The Quest, Atlantis Farewell). The rest of it was uninspired, lacking a sense of identity, and muddled by the atrocious performance of the band’s first male vocalist. Even so, the album had “moments”; one got the impression there was a future here, and that this band could become a great addition to the world of symphonic power metal a la Nightwish. Of particular interest was Nicole Bogner’s quite Tarja-like voice, a sure attraction to femme-metal fans like me.

Unfortunately, this sophomore release doesn’t show a whole lot in the way of advancement. It’s not like they didn’t try to make some improvements. They did replace their male vocalist with someone who, if not exactly impressive, is at the very least passable. They also worked with a better producer this time, resulting in a small plus in the overall sound. The change of keyboardists seems like a lateral move, with neither gain nor loss; both the previous Chris Kamper and the new Miro Holly are quite good. The bottom line is that despite any changes made, the band has still come back to much the same place they started from; which isn’t a bad place, but it’s time to be moving onward and upward.

Like the debut, this new album also has a couple of shining stars. The first track, Send Me A Light, is a real gem of a song, an energetic rocker in which Mario and Nicole work together exceptionally well on the vocal front. Add to that the nicely-played emotional guitaring and dreamy synth work, and this song is a perfect pattern for what could have been a really great album. Then there’s Lost, another impressive fast-paced song where Mario reaches a level of passion that he lacks on most of the tracks; Miro gives us a scorching synthesizer show too. After that the quality drops a notch to Pharaoh’s Repentance, a good enough song but hardly spectacular. The heavy ballad Last Shut of Your Eyes falls into the same category -- certainly not bad, but it doesn‘t scream out “play me over and over“ either.. The other five songs range from unexceptional to snooze-inducing (I‘m talking about you, Winternight!). Realm of Fantasy and Lemuria come precariously close to silliness, if you ask me. There is also a bonus video for Lost, but it’s nothing special, just shots of the band playing.

The songs that succeed have proven to have some staying power, since I have often had them mentally playing in my head, stuck on repeat for hours at a time (a common “problem“ during the work day). For those songs that fail, it’s simply that they lack any real emotional or melodic depth that would justify their existence (in short: they‘re boring). This seems a macro-level problem, rather than something in the details. I can’t point to any one band member and say “he’s the cause” because they’re all, at a minimum, competent musicians. Rather, several songs suffer from a lack of inspiration in their very construction. What VOA could use is a songwriting genius.

The final verdict is, if you like this style of music (melodic power metal with soprano female vocals and synthesizers) this album is worth having, but only if you don’t expect to be wowed by every song. For my part, I will probably keep buying VOA’s albums as long as they feature Nicole’s stunning voice. She is the “one big thing” the band has going for them. Yes, I am in love.

On a final note, I’d like to say that the criticism VOA has taken for trying to sound like Nightwish is somewhat unfair. I’m not disputing that they do, in fact, appear to be trying just that. My basic point is: so what? There are a great many bands out there who try to emulate other bands, who don’t take the beating for it that VOA has. I think what’s different in this case is that the band being emulated is in a class of their own, and fans resent any attempt to intrude on their style. Well, Nightwish certainly exists at the pinnacle of symphonic-operatic power metal (hey, they‘re certainly my favorite band), but that doesn’t mean other bands can’t try to climb that mountain. VOA aren’t anywhere near the summit yet, but perhaps someday they’ll get there (or maybe not). I, for one, would rather sit back and watch them try, than to kick them down the slope and dismiss them completely.