The true masters of gothic horror metal, The Vision Bleak, returned earlier this summer with their fourth full length album, Set Sail to Mystery. With as strong a sense of the darkly romantic as ever, Konstanz and Schwadorf (the latter already known to fans of the great Empyrium) attack from all sides, producing another fantastic collection of cinematic gothic metal. This time, the album opens with a rather optimistic orchestral track over which lines from Lord Byron’s Manfred are recited. Needless to say, the mixture of Kontanz’s clear, robust voice and Schwadorf’s abrasive growl speaking the words of the great poet and set to a powerful orchestral arrangement is more than enough to send shivers up and down the spine. Thus, the stage is set for what might be the band’s strongest album since 2005’s Carpathia.
As can be expected, rocking beats and meaty riffs drive the listener through a slew of memorable hooks and thrillingly dark atmospheres. “I Dined with the Swans” tells of the twisted mind of the Düsseldorf vampire, a very real, very gruesome serial killer of early twentieth century Germany, while “The Outsider” recalls the Lovecraftian sensibilities never far from the band’s creative center. All of the tracks maintain the band’s trademark poetic delivery, even when subject matter enters the realm of the squeamish on such tracks as “A Romance with the Grave.” Likewise, the production and songwriting style does not deviate far from the sound established early in their career (punchy/catchy, respectively). These are strengths, of course, because what the band is doing both thematically and musically is outright superb.
The Vision Bleak know that the true art of horror lies on a plane above gore and shock value. As the first page of the CD booklet suggests, Set Sail to Mystery is a journey deep into the places where the horrible manifests its self within us. As always, The Vision Bleak succeed in molding what they find there into a brilliant work that is indeed “cathartic.”