A step forward into acoustic and doom territories - A review of The Vision Bleak's "The Unknown"
''The Unknown'' is the sixth full length studio record of German gothic metal duo The Vision Bleak. Even though the characteristic gloomy atmosphere and horror lyrics are still there, the band manages to go beyond its unique trademarks. The dominant organ sounds and playful folk elements from the convincing predecessor ''Witching Hour'' are gone and the band didn't go back to its conceptual releases or catchier genre anthems of the past either. ''The Unknown'' isn't limited to a concrete concept or guiding line and offers seven songs that are a little bit more complex, diversified and harder to digest. The only exceptions are a concise, gloomy storytelling overture entitled ''Spirits of the Dead'' that offers entertaining business as usual and a relaxing instrumental with decent orchestral passages, moving acoustic guitar melodies and a slight neofolk touch called ''Who May Oppose Me?'' where the band breaks new ground.
This record needs more than just a handful of spins but patient gothic metal fans will get rewarded with seven intellectual, profound and soulful growers. The easiest track to digest is probably the shortest among the remaining seven songs called ''The Kindred of the Sunset'' because it recalls previous efforts of the band and could have found its righteous place on a release like ''Set Sail to Mystery''. This is probably the reason why the band wisely chose this tune for its limited EP released three months prior to the new album. The track summarizes all of the band's strengths. The charismatic, low and powerful vocals of Konstanz are elegant, haunting and perfectly executed while Schwadorf adds his charismatic black metal shrieks in the right spots to evoke a truly sinister atmosphere. The mid-tempo riffs are addicting, the dark guitar and keyboard melodies are hypnotizing, the drum beat is steady and the bass guitar adds some gripping drive in the right moments. The chorus is also quite addicting and comes closest to past hits like ''Wolfmoon'', ''Carpathia'' and ''The Outsider''. This track will definitely secure its place on the set lists for upcoming concerts and festivals.
The Vision Bleak explores both extremes of its genre in the apocalyptic, fast and straight ''From Wolf to Peacock'' that recalls the origins of blackened gothic metal with a symphonic touch and the almost entirely acoustic, slow and playful ''Ancient Heart''. While the former song sounds angry, extroverted and pitiless, the latter feels melancholic, introspective and plodding. The band also explores the doom metal side of the gothic genre more than ever. The title track ''Into the Unknown'' might be the best of its kind as it's a quite good indicator for the entire record with its restrained pace, lazy instrumentation and gloomy atmosphere that is playfully interrupted by occasional airy acoustic guitar sounds and symphonic elements while the surprising chorus uses unusually high and clean vocals. The band put more ideas into this song than other genre artists in their entire albums and that's why it takes a while to fully embrace most of this album.
In my opinion, The Vision Bleak convinces most on this record when the duo slows down the pace and develops a gloomy, lazy and lethargic atmosphere with the help of repetitive riffs, a steady rhythm section and a clever use of liberating yet limited acoustic guitar and orchestral sounds. These passages recall smooth neofolk elements in the key of Empyrium but also gloomier gothic metal bands like The Foreshadowing in a positive way. The band manages to sound like itself yet to add a slow, lethargic and hypnotizing soundscape that hasn't been that present before. Even though ''The Unknown'' might not be among the band's greatest efforts, it's a step forward in the right direction like the last album as the duo doesn't repeat itself but advances in an original, slow and sure manner. Old fans will enjoy the band's creativity, credible gothic metal fans should own anything the band releases anyway but potential new fans should rather start with the new compilation ''Timeline - An Introduction to The Vision Bleak'' or buy the group's first two outputs ''The Deathship Has a New Captain'' and ''Carpathia - A Dramatic Poem'' that are much easier to get into.
Final Rating: 82%« Dwelling on the past won't solve your tiring midlife crises - A review of Blink-182's "California"A step forward into acoustic and doom territories - A review of The Vision Bleak's "The Unknown" »
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