Album of the Week 03-2014: Vision Divine – Stream Of Consciousness

Lineup changes are an indispensible part of the history of bands that last longer than a few years. These are generally frowned upon, but sometimes they can mean something of a new beginning as well. Case in point: my discovery of the incredible Michele Luppi on Vision Divine’s ‘Stream Of Consciousness’. Fabio Lione’s forced departure – Rhapsody’s contract with Magic Circle Music at the time basically prohibited any side activities for its members – let to Luppi’s hiring, while Olaf Thörsen breaking ties with all the Labÿrinth members in Vision Divine gave way to Oleg Smirnoff’s unconventional keyboard work, providing all the ingredients for the band’s most impressive album so far.

‘Stream Of Consciousness’ is a concept record and as such lends a little more of a progressive touch to the songwriting. The musicians involved may have had some effect to this as well; drummer Matteo Amoroso played with progressive Power Metallers Athena and Smirnoff’s keyboard work extends beyond his predecessor’s Andrea de Paoli’s more familiar Power Metal territory. Band leader Thörsen has never been scared of a few progressive tendencies either, it just seems that his time, the circumstances have proven a little more fitting to take this direction. And it works; all the songs are well crafted, full of great melodies and somewhat surprising.

What makes this record even better than Vision Divine’s generally great output then? First of all, and I know I mentioned this before, Michele Luppi is a revelation. To this day, I have yet to find a better singer within the more melodic side of the Metal genre. The man has an enormous range through which he races with great ease, but also knows how to wring the right amount of emotion out of every note. There’s some fantastic harmonies as well. And those are all backed by powerful riffs, songs with surprising little twists and a crisp, clean production to boot. It seems like Thörsen really had something to prove here.

Despite the conceptual nature of the album – there’s recurring themes and short instrumental pieces – there’s actually a bunch of very strong songs on here. ‘Out Of The Maze’, ‘Colours Of My World’ and ‘La Vitta Fugge’ are fantastic progressive Power Metal tracks with powerful choruses (especially the former!), ‘The Fallen Feather’ and ‘Identities’ are beautiful ballads and ‘We Are, We Are Not’ contains possibly the heaviest riff Vision Divine had done up to that point. But the true diamond here is ‘Versions Of The Same’, with its beautiful vocal lines and perfect chorus. It’s a tad poppy, but that’s also part of its irresistable charm.

For those of you into the strongly melodic side of Heavy Metal should hear this album. Period. It’s probably the best album released in the last decade in that particular segment of the genre. Also, it showed the world the incredible talents of Michele Luppi, who’s gone out to do many, many more great things in the melodic Metal and AOR genres. ‘Stream Of Consciousness’ is where Vision Divine finally prove itself as a band; it’s the evidence that Olaf Thörsen could do this without his Labÿrinth bandmates and not only that: he did it even better than with them.

Recommended tracks: ‘Versions Of The Same’, ‘Out Of The Maze’, ‘Colours Of My World’

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