Since they were founded in 2000, Visions of Atlantis have been a force to be reckoned with. Sporting both female and male lead vocals, they offered a variety most symphonic metal bands didn’t have. Their first album “Eternal Endless Infinity” was an incredible debut effort. Nicole Bogner’s (RIP) voice was beautiful and it’s what made the album stand out above the rest in 2002. Even though they’ve changed both vocalists through the years, they kept their symphonic and epic sound across all of their albums. In 2011 they hit their peak when they released “Delta,” which was a mash up of everything that made them good. Maxi Nil and Mario Plank’s voices blended perfectly to create a sound unlike any band that year. “Delta” had a much more “poppy” sound than previous efforts, but it worked in their favor. Now two years have passed and they have released their fifth album, “Ethera.” Does it live up to their exceptional track record of past albums? The answer is quite simply, no.
On “Ethera” they threw out all of the magic and mystery of previous efforts and replaced them with some of the most generic and boring song-writing in a long time. The four chord guitar work and the uninspired vocal melodies make things very drab. Almost all of the symphonic elements are gone. The album opens with the lackluster “The Ark” which has one of the worst choruses this year. Following “The Ark” is “Machinage” which surprisingly sounds like a song off of “Delta” and is one of the best tracks on the album. After a great song, they lose all focus and hit a downward spiral until the near end of the album. On “Avatara” they try to be heavier than before but it fails on so many levels. The song doesn’t go anywhere. It just sits there and simmers without anything to pull the listener in. The keyboard on "Avatara" tries to impersonate James Hetfield, which continues through the rest of the album. It sounds like a completely singer all together. “Tlaloc’s Grace” is deceiving. It starts off with symphonic prowess and a great sounding duet that sounds like Visions of Atlantis of old. But when it’s time for the song to pick up, it falls apart. The combination of the bad melody in the chorus and the James Hetfield lyrics, make it enough to change the track. The only other notable track on this album is “Bestiality vs. Integrity.” It’s quite possibly the worst song title I’ve ever heard; I don’t know why they would name a song that, but it’s the best song on the album oddly enough. It’s what they should sound like. Peaceful piano, smooth singing, a great solo and a soaring chorus. It’s too bad the rest of the album wasn’t of this caliber.
I’m a huge fan of Visions of Atlantis, and however much I may love them, I just can’t give this album a good score. “Ethera” tries to do so many things differently that aren’t in its favor. While it has its moments, the bad definitely outweighs the good. I didn’t expect them to top “Delta,” but I expected them to continue along the same path. Maybe they needed to spend more time working on the album to give it the extra power it needed. Instead we just have a lackluster effort from an amazing band.
- Brian DuBois
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