Review: Visions of Atlantis – Pirates
Napalm Records (May 13th, 2022)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
My introduction to Symphonic Metal began in 2007 with the release of Nightwish’s album ‘Dark Passion Play’. Nothing about the genre interested me until that album came along. I transversed their back catalog and found the band was incorporating more melodic overtones into their sound as their career developed. I was excited to hear what the band would do next, but alas, the subsequent albums they released never came close matching ‘Dark Passion Play’. I am stating this because I believe I just heard the album I was expecting to hear all those years ago.
Visions of Atlantis’ new release ‘Pirates‘ is a mix of Power and Symphonic Metal with touches of Celtic that go with the themes associated with the title. Admittedly, I was not familiar with the band and did not realize they have a vast catalog that goes back over 20 years, a number that also comes close to the amount of line-up changes. I became enthralled by the band based on the two singles that were released and certainly wanted to hear more.
The band seems to have found their footing with the elegant pipes of Clémentine Delauney, who I believe also plays the keyboard/piano parts on the album. What she contributes vocally and musically adds to the complexity and nuance of the overall sound that is critical to making all these songs sound epic. The other lead singer also deserves a special mention. Vocalist Michele Guaitoli is the yin to Clémentine’s yang. A great singer who at times resembles Nightwish’s ex-singer/bassist Marko Hietala, especially on the track ‘Mercy’, a straight to the point heavy rocker and his best performance on the album.
Album opener ‘Pirates Will Return’ sets the stage for what’s to come. Strong and bombastic melodies that vary between loud and soft structures with a mixture of both power metal and operatic vocals. Exactly what you would want to hear from a premier Symphonic Metal band. Next is second single ‘Melancholy Angel’, a standout track and easy to see why it was released as a single. The band fires on all cylinders with this track, with the catchiest chorus on the album. Clémentine and Michele’s vocals mesh beautifully here. It is easy to see why the band has chosen to open their shows recently with ‘Master the Hurricane’. It is an epic harmony of bombast similar to the opening track with keyboards, sonic effects, and layers of instrumentation performed with precision that you can only get from expert musicians.
I was not able to find out who makes the arrangements for the tracks but if they all contribute, they do a masterful job. Special mention needs to go to the keyboard melodies, which are the heart and soul of the band. They permeate every aspect of the songs guiding the listener to be drawn into the quieter parts and swelling the melodies that bind together the heavier moments. A special mention to the piano melody line for ‘Darkness Inside’, an absolute standout and one of the best tracks on the album. Those opening keys are fabulous.
There are two ballads on the album and of the two, ‘Heal the Scars’ is the superior one. Both songs feature minimal instrumentation, so it is all about the vocal delivery. Clémentine is solo here and the peaks and valleys of her delivery is both beautiful and emotionally wrenching. Perfection.
So let’s talk about the album title. While it’s called ‘Pirates‘, the themes explored in the songs vary from vague (‘Melancholy Angel’, ‘Clocks’) to subtle (‘Master The Hurricane’, ‘Wild Elysium’) to overt (‘Pirates Will Return’, ‘Legion of the Seas‘). I know “Pirate Metal” is a sub-genre, with a band like Alestorm being the most well-known, but the album would be lyrically redundant if all it focused on was swashbuckling and sailing the seas. Thankfully, they avoid the heavy-handedness of the subject and develop some wonderfully sophisticated lyrics with emotional resonance.
If someone wanted to explore the sub-genre of Symphonic Metal and didn’t know where to begin, I would, without hesitation, point to this album. One of the biggest surprises for me this year. I expected a possibly good album, but this was so much more. Now I am off to explore their back catalog and see what I have been missing all this time.