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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

The Vision Bleak

Set Sail To Mystery

Review by Mike Korn

Gothic music is something hard to do well without seeming corny or maudlin. A lot of what I've heard of it veers into sappiness or eye-rolling camp. Therefore, it is quite refreshing to hear a band like Germany's The Vision Bleak, who truly seem to understand the whole mystique behind the phenomena. Devotees of classical horror, Schwadorf and Konstanz belong much more to 19th century romanticism than the latex-wearing, pieced cyber-freaks that modern Goth music seems composed of. In other words, these guys are Poe and Lovecraft rather than "Twilight" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

It also helps that they are a metal band to boot. Along with the creepy choirs and sinister symphonic sounds on Set Sail To Mystery, there's plenty of satisfyingly heavy crunch and memorable riffs. Traces of doom, thrash and black metal mix with the mysterious atmosphere of Bauhaus, Type O Negative or even Nox Arcana.

Type O fans in particular will be drawn to Konstanz' deep and gloomy vocals. Best of all, the Vision Bleak seem to truly be into this antique type of phony irony or camp to be found. Along with musical dexterity and a good sense of variety, this makes Set Sail To Mystery one of the most memorable albums of its kind.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
A Curse of the Grandest Kind

This is absolutely one of the coolest, most ominous sounding openings to any album I can remember. Not rock music at all, it's rather an extreme dark symphonic piece that builds and builds in intensity until it reaches a truly exhilarating climax. It is very much like the soundtrack to a big budget Hollywood horror movie. Throughout the track, deep vocals intone the words of a dreadful curse, rising in intensity to meet the music. Additional voices add in to this sinister incantation until the ultimate crescendo is reached and things go quiet, leading directly into the next track.

Descent Into the Maelstrom
After the awesome orchestral intro of "A Curse of the Grandest Kind,” this cut explodes with the most metallic riff on the album. It’s a fantastic transition, one of the best I've ever heard. Despite the thrashy metal nature of this cut, the strings and orchestral elements are still there and add immensely to the drama of this song, an adaptation of Poe's classic tale. Following another thunderous climax, calm acoustic chords end the track, like still waters after a storm.
I Dined With The Swans
This gloomy track tells the macabre tale of a maniac who gets his jollies out of killing swans and drinking their blood. It's a slow, ponderous doom metal track based on a simple but incredibly creepy riff where piano accentuates the crushing guitar. This cut owes a lot to classic English doom metal like My Dying Bride and early Paradise Lost. The twisted vocals remind me of Renfield from "Dracula" ...they capture the mood perfectly.
A Romance With The Grave
A grinding, chugging metal riff anchors this powerful and morbid song, which throbs with a brutal bass sound. Despite the heaviness, delicate keyboard touches and melodies enhance the sound...a trademark of The Vision Bleak. As you can imagine, the lyrics seem to be an ode to necrophilia: "Oldest sin...palest skin...ageless grin...DEATH!"
The Outsider
Based on H. P. Lovecraft's classic horror tale, this shows the speedier and more metal side of The Vision Bleak. It's a driving tune again boosted by just the right touches of atmosphere and keyboard. The vocals range from the deep Gothic croon to black metal rasps. "I wallow in the old world/In things that they condemn/In solitude and shadow/The Outsider I am"
Mother Nothingness
The longest song on the album, this is pure suffocating doom metal with a ponderous, massive aura to it. It also has a very cool Middle Eastern motif that helps to summon up images of ancient worlds and civilizations. The vocals are a kind of languid moaning chant augmented by blackened grunts. An operatic alto voice appears late in the tune to add further weirdness. Extra points to the band for being influenced by the great Clark Ashton Smith lyrically.
The Foul Within
More darkness and heaviness prevail in this multi-faceted tale inspired by "The Exorcist.” The eerie sounds of a theremin and a spooky choir pop up amidst the headbanging riffery and a female soprano chimes in as well. These guys are absolute masters of cinematic songwriting, creating very strong "pictures" with their music. That puts them in pretty elite company.
He Who Paints The Black of Night
The album ends with this odd, progressive tune that features some of the fastest riffing on the album. The drumming is really powerful here and propels the song with a lot of energy. There are a lot of tempo and riff shifts to keep you tense. I can't say it is my favorite song here, but it's full of that dismal atmosphere that characterizes The Vision Bleak, which is well summed up here: "Shadows, darkness, death and sin/Hold off from the pack/You will never be complete/Until you paint the night in black.”
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