Horror metal duo The Vision Bleak have a fun new take on the atmospheric goth noir that’s all the rave these days.
What they’ve come up with is a direct link to the inception of dark writing – music to be terrified to.
OK, that might sound a little dramatic but the fact that they take their inspiration from that master of menace HP Lovecraft does give them an edge when it comes to making theatre from music. They have a grainy retro sound which will appeal to fans of classic goth rock such as the Sisters Of Mercy and Fields Of The Nephilim. Unlike either of those bands though, The Vision Bleak manage to get real menace into their dark baroque music by cleverly using some of the more subtle parts of the doom metal that is their heritage.
Made up of Empyrium’s Ulf Schwardorf and former Nox Mortis drummer Allen B Konstanz this could be described as a side project where the members are showing their light side. The moodiness is counteracted by an often up tempo pace such as on Hexenmeister which with its thumping rhythm work and marching keys could be mistaken at first for fellow German rockers Rammstein. I have to wonder how much of this clear influence is genuine and how much is contrived. Fortunately, the fact that this duo use the style only briefly makes me think the latter is true. Added to that, the vocals are nothing like we hear from Till Lindemann.
It is Konstanz’s voice (yep, that’s right – the drummer is also the vocalist) that may niggle some people as the vocal is effectively little more than spoken word albeit with some quite melodramatic turns when called for. For me it fits the storytelling nature of the album well, as this is after all a concept album. You do get some wonderful touches too, particularly from the keyboard where many of the songs are given their depth and clarity. The intro to The Blocksberg Rite is a case in point. Played in a flute-like manner this simple but effective opening sits well even when the rest of the song turns out to be one of the heaviest on the album.
As if the theme of witches and witchcraft were not enough, taking inspiration directly from one of horror’s most revered and unnerving writers is almost a case of overkill. Many bands before The Vision Bleak have used Lovecraft as a theme or point of reference. Cradle Of Filth have done so several times, most notably on Cthulhu Dawn. The band Ctulu even named themselves after one of the writer’s creations albeit with an altered spelling. Lovecraft’s influence on The Vision Bleak, however, is different to the aforementioned examples.
They actually use the nightmarish state of mind that the books delve into and inject some of that directly into their music. This means that even with all the imperfections that Witching Hours comes with, the message still gets through. There is a genuine sense of unease about this album in the same way that people get spooked by an empty house with no electricity, or the mention of anything occult.
Not everyone will understand this record but those that do will love it. If HP Lovecraft had been around today I’m sure he’d give it the thumbs up, and who am I to argue.
For Fans Of: Sisters Of Mercy, Bad Pollyanna, Tool