VISION OF ATLANTIS – Pirates II: Armada (Album Review)

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Avast, Ye Metal Mateys!

Symphonic metal has made its fair share of evolutionary leaps since it first came raging out of Europe in the late 1990s courtesy of trailblazers like Nightwish and Rhapsody Of Fire, to the point where it could be further divided into multiple camps. Yet with all the innovative strides made by the likes of Seven Spires and Wilderun, there is an enduring charm to those bands that have progressed into the 2020s while maintaining a continual affinity with the 2nd wave power metal roots of the sub-genre.

Though by no means averse to change, longstanding Austrian power metal veterans Visions Of Atlantis have continually cleaved to a stylistic expression more in line with where symphonic metal was circa 2004, while also sticking mostly to the theme of grand nautical adventures and mythology. Their 2022 conceptual LP “Pirates” stands as one of the more consistent expressions of lofty tales on the high seas set to a musical template, and roughly two years to the day their sequel entry dubbed “Pirates II: Armada” builds upon that same mixture of operatic splendor and metallic bombast.

From the opening resound of a low tone flute that kicks off this musical journey’s overture “To Those Who Choose To Fight”, the colliding worlds of a high-grade cinematic homage to Pirates Of The Caribbean and olden sea shanties result in a vividly drawn realm of wonder, with some sort of a folksy character to the melodic scheme set in the foreground.

Clementine Delauney, known by many for her brief stint with Austrian fellow travelers Serenity, delivers a powerful yet measured vocal display reminiscent of Sharon Den Adel’s lofty soprano, while Temperance helmsman Michele Guatoli reprises his grittier yet still highly dramatic sailorman’s tenor. This contrasting duet is a bit less flamboyant than the one originally presented by Tarja Turunen and Marko Hietala, but establishes a similar degree of tension that melds beautifully with the dense orchestral atmosphere and punchy guitar riffs, while a further contrast with Nightwish is drawn by guitarist Christian Douscha’s more technically active approach to riffing and frequent guitar soloing.

“Pirates II – Armada” Album Artwork

Though the instrumental arrangement leans heavily on the grandiose and the elaborate, the songwriting proves highly accessible and more in line with more symmetrical and traditional offerings. Quick-paced bangers like the opening foray “The Land Of The Free” and the similarly hard-hitting and catchy anthem “Hellfire” reminisce upon the power metal trappings of the early 2000s with a mighty symphonic edge, while the thrasher of a title entry “Armada” listens like the modernized and seaworthy successor of vintage Nightwish cooker “The Devil And The Deep Dark Ocean”.

More mid-paced crushers like “Monsters” and “Collide” are no less explosive despite pulling back on the speed, the latter featuring one of Douscha’s most mesmerizing lead guitar displays to date. A folksy, night at the tavern with the metal band tone crop up on the utterly infectious “Magic Of The Night” and its dance hall cousin “Tonight I’m Alive”. Yet this album shines its brightest on the twin epic sloughs “The Dead Of The Sea” and album closer “Where The Sky And Ocean Blend”, showcasing a brilliant blend of orchestrated balladry and metallic bluster while Delauney and Guatoli turn in riveting performances.

As a band that has often been overshadowed by the commercial prowess of some of their successful peers, Visions Of Atlantis has done much to distinguish themselves since the late 2010s. They’ve largely erred on the side of keeping the presentation straightforward and accessible, contrasting with the often wildly elongated and elaborate orchestral compositions that have become commonplace in Nightwish’s latest works, as well as the structurally ambiguous character that has typified Epica.

This latest tale of seafaring brigands struggling for their way of life ranks among the more polished and methodical entries in Visions Of Atlantis’ catalog, falling just a tad short of the initial magic that they happened upon in their formative years, but standing tall among the rest that followed. Like most that have been dabbling in this popular style, they don’t set out to reinvent the wheel here, but the one that they end up crafting has enough ornamentation and luster to captivate the ears like a siren’s song.

Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: July 5th, 2024
Genre: Symphonic / Power / Pirate Metal

Musicians:

  • Thomas Caser / Drums
  • Clémentine Delauney / Female vocals
  • Christian Douscha / Guitars
  • Herbert Glos / Bass
  • Michele Guaitoli / Male vocals

Pirates II: Armada” Track List:

1. To Those Who Choose To Fight
2. The Land Of The Free
3. Monsters
4. Tonight I’m Alive
5. Armada
6. The Dead Of The Sea
7. Ashes To The Sea
8. Hellfire
9. Collide
10. Magic Of The Night
11. Underwater
12. Where The Sky And Ocean Blend

Order Pirates II: ArmadaHERE

8.8 Excellent

Austrian symphonic power metal pioneers Visions Of Atlantis deliver a rock-solid collection of buccaneer exploits turned into songs, channeling and expanding upon the same glorious spirit that made the genre shine in the early 2000s

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 9
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