Album of the Week 51-2019: The Vision Bleak – The Unknown


Gothic rock’s mournful melodies and doom metal’s crushing heaviness appear to be made for each other, both having an irresistibly ominous theatricality to them. More often than not, however, gothic metal bands go for the goth aesthetic rather than the stylistic properties of the genre. For every ‘Irreligious’, there is a symphonic power metal band with operatic female vocals calling themselves gothic. Germany’s The Vision Bleak actually managed to create a genuinely atmospheric sound that is almost equal parts gothic and metal, although their most recent album ‘The Unknown’ is significantly heavier and more metallic than some people might expect.

After the more upbeat, folky nature of ‘Witching Hour’, ‘The Unknown’ was a bit of a surprise. It’s not like The Vision Bleak displays a completely different approach here. The music is still lead by slow to midtempo, not too complicated riffs and the deep gothic baritone of Konstanz. It’s just that the increased heaviness makes ‘The Unknown’ the most immersive listening experience since the band’s sophomore ‘Carpathia’ album. The keyboards and symphonic elements have been toned down a bit, but that doesn’t make the album any less atmospheric. If anything, the compositions and the choice of instruments create a nightmarish musical landscape.

The Vision Bleak were always masters of dynamics. Even their heaviest tracks have a great sense of build-up. An excellent example from this album would be ‘Into The Unknown’. The slow gallop – which would technically make it a trot, but whatever – may be pounding quite heavily throughout the song, but the riff takes a back seat to Konstanz’ vocals and Schwadorf’s clever clean guitar touches during the verses, only to make the chorus sound extra bombastic. ‘Ancient Heart’, the album’s most gothic moment, alternates between big, beefy riffs and mostly acoustic sections with an almost Middle-Eastern feel to them. Highly effective and above all enjoyable.

Elsewhere, the band reconnects with their extreme metal roots without forsaking their sense of atmosphere and melody. Opening track ‘From Wolf To Peacock’ is built upon mournful riffs and melodies, but the drums are somewhere between a polka and a blastbeat, while the climaxes of the particularly theatrical, Moonspell-ish ‘How Deep Lies Tartaros?’ have a black metal-ish vibe to them. A full album of those tracks would get old soon, but when they are alternated with moments of amazingly atmospheric doom and gloom, such as the annihiliatingly heavy doomster ‘The Whine Of The Cemetery Hound’ and the climactic closer ‘The Fragrancy Of Soil Unearthed’, it just works.

While The Vision Bleak is another one of those bands with a wide appeal of which I don’t understand why they don’t have a larger audience, ‘The Unknown’ is definitely the perfect album to check out for the metal side of their potential fanbase if they have not heard the band. Schwadorf’s big riffs and clever use of simple, yet effective melodies are all over the album. The combination between those and Konstanz’ charismatic vocals are definitely what won me over. A must for gothic metal fans, but adventurous doom metal fans should probably give this a chance as well.

Recommended tracks: ‘Into The Unknown’, ‘Ancient Heart’, ‘The Whine Of The Cemetery Hound’

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