Visions of Atlantis - Ethera
Napalm Records
Gothic/Power Metal
11 songs (47' 10")
Release year: 2013
Visions of Atlantis, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Andy

Visions of Atlantis has been a band seemingly in search of an original sound for some time. The last two albums we've reviewed got panned as generic Nightwish-clone junk, so in the interests of fairness, I re-listened to both of them (a reviewer's life is hard sometimes -- I did get to verify that their scores were deserved though) before seeing if their newest, Ethera, was any better. Well...it's a little better. They're slightly better musicians than last time and seem to be getting some ideas of what they want to do musically, though their latest offering still has plenty of flaws.

So, the good news is that male vocalist Mario Plank, whose rather weak performance went a lot toward sinking previous albums, has settled on a power-metal sound for his vocals that reminds me of Nocturnal Rites' Jonny Lindqvist, with maybe a little Alfred Romero-era Dark Moor thrown in. His vocals don't blow anyone away, but they're listenable and every once in a while they're better than one expects. Maxi Nil, his duet partner through the album, has made her vocals a little less goth and thus puts in fewer futile attempts to be another Tarja, which is also good. There are a lot of fast, chugging guitars courtesy of guitarist Cris Tian, much less "symphonic" keyboard in the forefront (although they haven't gotten rid of it completely), and the melodies have gotten slightly better, ranging from boringly average to solid.

The Ark, their first track, is a poor start -- an underwhelmingly mid-tempo duet filled with keyboard effects, it simply doesn't make a strong impression. Machineage picks up a bit more with a stronger, more power-metal rhythm. A good deal of techno keyboard effects are still present, though, which add nothing to the song but make it sound fake, just like the metallic robot-voice added partway through. Avatara is a similar quality, though for different reasons; though mid-tempo and unchallenging, the prechorus is at least memorable. Now if only Maxi could hit those high notes properly...

The worst is when Visions of Atlantis tries its hand at power ballads, which it does in half of Vicious Circle, Cave Behind the Waterfall, and Bestiality vs Integrity. All of them fail pretty badly, though not for lack of trying, as the band experiments with heavier, chugging riffs, Plank's new-found grittier vocals, changing the song halfway through to a power metal rhythm, anything. The better songs are when they stay away from anything that sounds like it might be quiet and introspective, and which would put demands on the vocalists that they can't meet. Songs where they steer a wiser course include Hypnotized, which has a decent melody and a reasonably complex guitar solo to redeem it, and A.E.O.N. 19th, definitely the best song on the album, with quite a strong performance from Plank and a memorable, melodic chorus with the now-familiar Plank/Nil duet. The final track, Clerics Emotion, seems to be an aim at a powerful finale, and while it falls short of the mark, it's heavy at least, and has good contrast in the vocal department.

I'm sorry to say that this still isn't a great album, but it is a slight improvement, and the band has fixed some of their most glaring problems in this one. If they work on their melodies and vocals they might yet make their way out of the clone category, but for now, I'd really only recommend this to fans of their past work, who may be pleasantly surprised by their attempts to move beyond their original influences.

Killing Songs :
A.E.O.N. 19th
Andy quoted 59 / 100
Other albums by Visions of Atlantis that we have reviewed:
Visions of Atlantis - Maria Magdalena reviewed by Jaime and quoted no quote
Visions of Atlantis - Delta reviewed by Jaime and quoted 55 / 100
Visions of Atlantis - Cast Away reviewed by Ben and quoted 45 / 100
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