Visions of Atlantis, "Cast Away"

My first guess was “symphonic epic metal” and I wasn’t far off, though these Austrians prefer call themselves “symphonic bombastic metal”, and who am I to argue with that? These labels at least make it easy to navigate the crowded waters of metal sub-genres; if it weren’t for the cover art, I’d really be lost. But no, this is correctly labeled and wrapped in a lovely painting so I know what I’m in for.

The first word that comes to mind is efficient. Everyone can play (vocals: Nicole Bognar and Mario Plank, guitar: Werner Fiedler, bass: Mike Koren, drums: Thomas Caser, synth: Miro Holly) and the compositions are mature and smooth, with a clean, strong production job. Nicole’s pretty talented; obvious comparisons to other current vocalists apply (Nightwish, Leave’s Eyes, After Forever) but she's not quite in their leaque... yet. Mario’s voice is more rock than metal, and works well as a contrast to Nicole; he’s got a few different moods to his vocals but nothing too extreme. The engine room is efficient… there’s that word again… but with “symphonic bombastic metal” you’re not supposed to really notice the drums and bass anyway. It’s all up to the guitars and synth, and Visions of Atlantis are not lacking in the department; there’s plenty of space for tricky synth lines and guitar heroics, not to mention that the somewhat balladic nature (“Last Shut of Your Eyes”, “Winternight”) of some songs gives Miro Holly room to show off his piano chops.

So… is it any good? For what it purports to be, yes; but its very genre specific so it’s appeal is going to mainly be with those of you who already dig symphonic metal. It’s not layered with fancy cheese like Rhapsody, but it does have a certain cheese factor. Atlantis (the city, the idea, the concept) has been getting plenty of attention lately from this crowd, and I’m over it. It sunk already; let it go. But group name aside, the songs are pretty good and the melodies are spot on. I don’t like how Nicole sticks with one “voice”; she comes off too straight, and she sounds capable of more. I like what she does with the vocal line in “Winternight”, only because it’s not her “opera” voice. It’s a minor complaint. Otherwise, she fits in well with music that tries to stay away from the power metal gallop as much as possible but is chock full of bombast. The title track “Cast Away” has it all; big synth hits in the intro, shared vocals on top of melodic passages in the verses, all dusted with metallic overtures, and an unassuming guitar solo leading to a fat outro. Yes, you’ve heard it before; but it’s all so darn efficient and good. Yet the whole album lacks that certain spark which would have pushed it into the upper tier; the Anna Kournikova of symphonic metal, if you will.

And of course, the crusty hard core types aren’t going to find anything to love here, so you’ve been warned… Danger! Symphonic Metal Ahead! Proceed at your own risk! In a saturated genre, even with limited (but growing, apparently) appeal to the American metal market, Visions of Atlantis are going to have to step it up to distinguish themselves from the vast array of similarly themed bands. Then and only then will I finally be able to mutter, “Best… symphonic bombastic metal band… ever.”

Standout Tracks

   Cast Away
   State of Suspense