It has not been an easy ride for Austrian symphonic metal band Visions Of Atlantis. Formed in 2000, the band has suffered inconsistency in their recorded output which has not been helped by the considerable line-up changes over the years. The band’s first five albums between 2002 and 2013 had no less than four lead vocalists and at one point, the whole band deserted Visions Of Atlantis leaving original drummer Thomas Caser to rebuild. French soprano Clémentine Delauney (Exit Eden, ex-Serenity, ex- Whyzdom) joined Visions Of Atlantis as vocalist in 2013 – although her first album was not until 2018’s The Deep & The Dark. Even then, there were more member changes with male vocal counterpart vocalist Mario Plank being replaced by Siegfried Samer. On the live album Deep & The Dark Live, Samer shared male vocal duties with Michele Guatoli (Temperance) who then replaced Samer full time. Whilst 2019’s Wanderers was Delauney’s second album; it was the first with the vocal partnership with Guatoli and is a strong album in Vision Of Atlantis’ catalogue.
New record Pirates more than continues this trend and it certainly excels over its predecessor. Clémentine Delauney is an exceptional vocalist and a real coup for Visions Of Atlantis but the pairing of Delauney and Guatoli is tremendous and one that fits the soundscapes that the band creates. There can be no denying that the female/male vocal partnership is nothing ground-breaking in symphonic metal but Visions Of Atlantis does bring in elements of pomp and European power metal with vivacious orchestral leanings to their sound which stirs the strength in the vocal partnership. With themes of travel and adventure, this is a band that knows what it wants and high seas shenanigans seems natural ground to be explored – even the visuals have been captured down to a tee.
The sound on Pirates is stunning, both the production and the mixing really brings out the cinematic sound which is not over glossy. A focal point is the Delauney and Guatoli’s vocal pairing which fits together perfectly but the musicians are not left adrift and merely providing backing music to the vocals, the instruments are crystal clear and the compositions knit well together. The band has captured something of a subtle ‘pirate swing’ to the music that nestles amongst the symphonic pomp. Opener Pirates Will Return delivers immediately, the chorus has that ‘sat around a table with tankards of ale and in unison arm swinging feel’ and it is impossible to shake the belief that Visions Of Atlantis has caught the mood in the first song. The material that makes up Pirates is varied with first single Legion Of The Seas setting the tone for the album, epic and bombastic with some brief but well placed quiet moments. Second single Melancholy Angel is upbeat with an infectious chorus and the harmony vocals. There is balance and where there is that bombast such as Master The Hurricane, shrouded in drama and atmosphere there is Heal The Scars which features delicate vocals from Clémentine while flutes and bagpipes float around that gorgeous voice.. It is the variety that really works on Pirates, well positioned songs that creates an ebb and flow. Where Clocks is upbeat and not short of catchiness, Freedom is another soulful ballad, Wild Elysium has a very power metal vein but the album closes with folky number I Will Be Gone.
With an album as good as Pirates, it feels churlish to mention that it brings nothing new but the question is does that really matter when there is so much to enjoy and it is so well done? Visions Of Atlantis has delivered a diverse and vibrant album that for sure ticks plenty of symphonic metal boxes but has improved on their last outing and is real progression; a band that feels united and is finally focused on their strengths and delivering – consistently – on the back of it.
Existing fans will be elated at Pirates and anyone with a passing interest in the symphonic metal genre will find plenty to enjoy. At the same time, it is also an album that new listeners can jump onto and is well worth the time and effort.