Prophecy Productions – Out Now.

Goth and Metal are two musical genres which, though closely related in some ways, are obviously quite distinct. It was in the early 90s and in the truly capable hands of bands like Anathema, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and The Gathering that these two worlds were brought closer together and the existence of a healthy and expanding scene twenty years since the release of iconic albums like “Gothic” and “Turn Loose The Swans” are evidence that the experiment was successful.

The Vision Bleak are a band whose fourteen-year existence is a direct result of that important union and their latest studio album “Witching Hour” could be seen as a continuation of the now firmly established Goth/Metal genre.

Goth is not something I am naturally drawn to, however there are elements in this dark and emotionally charged style that I find to be relevant to Metal, providing, however, that the guitar remains the dominant instrument.

What the members of The Vision Bleak have achieved in “Witching Hour” is exactly that: they have created nine heavy riffed, rhythmically driven compositions and infused them with haunting keyboard/organ themes, atmospheric string instrument passages and deep/low register vocals, influenced by Goth legends Sisters Of Mercy and The Mission.

Following the one and a half minute sinister same-titled intro, the album picks up quite a pace with the groovy head banging riffs of the latter-day Satyricon influenced “A Witch Is Born” and, though somewhat slower in tempo and featuring folkish flute tunes, the follow up “The Blocksberg Rite” keeps a healthy momentum as far as the album’s “heaviness” is concerned.

“Cannibal Witch” may have won the award for the most naff song title of the album, but, strangely enough, its brilliant combination of dark harmonies and epic heavy-laden riffs makes it its absolute highlight.

Though never quite reaching the same levels of skill and top musicianship, both the organ infused atmospheric ditto “The Wood Hag” and the fast riffed “Hexenmeister” will impress with an interesting combination of themes, while the symphonic elements of the epic-sounding “Pesta Approaches” should win quite a few new fans for the German duet.

Far simpler and quite commercial in its appeal, “The Call Of Banshee” is more loyal to the rules of the Goth Metal genre, unlike the seven and a half minute closing opus “The Valkyrie,” whose fast paced riffs bordered, much to my surprise, on the realms of Thrash Metal.

I am not quite sure what Ulf Schwadorf (Empyrium) and Allen B. Konstanz (Nox Moris) had in mind when they fist put together this interesting musical project back in the year 2000, but they must have been doing something right in my book, since despite my inability to relate to this nine track album entirely, I have found moments of sheer musical brilliance in the work of this band.

Now if somebody like me, with a limited appreciation of the Goth scene, can still find a number of positive things to say about this album, then anyone more inclined towards said genre ought to find “Witching Hour” a truly irresistible musical proposition.

John Stefanis

Rating: ***½ (3.5/5.0)

 

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