Visions Of Atlantis – Pirates II: Armada Album Review

Folk N Rock
Visions Of Atlantis – Pirates II: Armada Album Review

Hoist The Colors

Visions of Atlantis are set to unleash their latest treasure, “Pirates II: Armada,” on July 5th via Napalm Records. This time, the winds of change are blowing stronger than ever. The band’s previous release, “Pirates,” hinted at a shift in their musical voyage, but now they’ve fully hoisted the Jolly Roger. With “Pirates II: Armada,” Visions of Atlantis have not only embraced their seafaring alter egos but have also charted a course into heavier waters, both thematically and musically.

The band’s previous voyage struck gold with fans, including us, as it delivered one stellar track after another. Now, this new direction seems to have ignited a powder keg of excitement. Visions of Atlantis appears to have crafted yet another phenomenal record, potentially surpassing their previous triumphs for many I would say. For me personally, it stands as my favorite VOA album to date. I believe it will hit deeply with fans, especially those who cherish symphonic metal in its purest form. This album a treasure trove.

Symphonic metal  has indeed navigated through numerous transformations, making it challenging to pinpoint a band’s true essence in today’s ocean. Visions of Atlantis, while primarily anchored in symphonic metal, doesn’t confine themselves to a single port of call. They expertly thrown in folk influences and cinematic atmospheric elements, creating a sound as vast and varied style of music.

What sets VOA apart is their ability to stay true to the genre’s roots while being themselves. In an era where many bands have drifted from the classic symphonic sound, VOA stands right here, x makes the spot, keeping the spirit of the genre’s golden age alive. Yet, they are giving us  a new take on the beloved style while maintaining its core essence.

This dedication to their musical heritage, combined with their willingness to explore new horizons, makes “Pirates II: Armada” a voyage you will want to be a part of.

The Golden Age Of Symphonic Metal Returns

‘To Those Who Choose To Fight’ opens the sails of this voyage with soft finesse. The track starts off with this brooding ambience, like storm clouds gathering on the horizon. Bamboo-like flute work comes in this dark backdrop, joined by light, twinkling keyboard notes that shimmer like distant lightning.

The percussion builds, which makes you think you’re about to get a tempest, but instead it pulls back, allowing Clem’s vocals to take center stage. Her voice has this soft siren’s call, and floats over the subtle instrumentals.  There is this ghost-like effect on some lines adds a haunting depth. It sounds like multiple whispers just repeating her lines.

As the song nears its end, chime-like sounds ring out, clear as a ship’s bell in fog, before the track gently flows away like a retreating tide. This opener immerses you in the album’s world. And that is something I find that this album absolutely excels at. It really pulls you in with the cinematic elements.

When I think of this song, I picture pirates or sailors preparing for a dangerous sea battle, possibly against a powerful enemy fleet or before a risky raid. The “final night on Earth” line feels like it could be about their last night in port or their fear that they might not survive the upcoming conflict.

The fear in whispers and men testing their worth reflect both the danger and broader life challenges. The religious overtones (praying for souls, seeing gods, maybe a little bit of Poseidon thrown in there) mix sailor superstitions with personal faith in difficult times. And there are parts that seem to emphasizes the unity of the crew facing danger together.

There is a part about a bard singing their song which ties into both the nautical theme, (sea shanties and sailor stories) and the idea of leaving a legacy or being remembered for one’s deeds. Which I guess, we all kind of want to be remembered for something. I felt like this song was a fantastic opener to the album. Not only that, it’s something I think would play well as the curtains are still down and it’s playing as the band is preparing to make the stage in a live setting.

Clémentine Delauney – Philly 2023 – Phot By Shuvam DasGupta For Folk N Rock

‘The Land of the Free’ kicks off with some serious nostalgia that really hit me hard. Within the first few moments, it’s like I was playing World of Warcraft back in 2005 again, listening to those trailblazing bands like Nightwish, or Within Temptation. This took me back to the symphonic metal I knew and loved. This track, and album really, embodies the genre in its purest form, which is something I’ll likely mention throughout this write-up. In an era where symphonic metal has undergone numerous shifts and changes, Visions of Atlantis keeps the tradition alive while adding their own unique flair. This song truly captures what the genre is all about.

It’s as if the band has rediscovered the essence of what made symphonic metal so great in its early days. And at this point I was barely 30 seconds into the song, and already loving this. As ‘The Land of the Free’ hits its stride, I got struck by the orchestrations in the background. They create this bombastic, cinematic atmosphere that’s truly epic feeling.

At this point, Thomas is really poppin off on drums, and guitar work here is impressive too, with some heavy riffs that briefly sync up with Clem’s vocal melody, creating a cool, unified sound. Then, there’s this big pause that comes in and it’s filled only by shimmering, twinkling keys as Clementine’s voice takes on a softer tone. The song goes into a huge, anthemic chorus, which has this sing a long style.

This track has quite a lot of shifts in it, and it sounds awesome. During the second verse, Meek comes in, and as always, he’s a great counter to Clem’s vocal work. He brings a more savvy grit to his performance here, like the seasoned sailor that he is. There’s a real groovy little mini breakdown during this section too, and it goes pretty hard, I must say. We then get this great little power metal style guitar solo shortly after that. I just love this change-up with the duality in the guitar work as well as with the vocal performances and just the overall song in general.

This song feels to me like it deals with personal struggle, freedom, and the consequences of one’s actions. From a pirate’s perspective, it could be interpreted as the reflections of a buccaneer grappling with their lifestyle choices. You have all of the violence, glory, and rum align with typical pirate imagery.

On a personal level, the song seems to go into inner conflicts, feelings of loneliness, and the search for true freedom. The song also touches on a bit of nostalgia for “golden days” and past adventures, which could apply to both a pirate’s life and personal memories. Or in my case, the nostalgia of the golden days of symphonic metal which this song absolutely brings to you.

‘Tonight I’m Alive’ steers the ship into uncharted waters, trading the rolling seas for sun-baked dunes. It’s as if our crew of pirates, having just dropped anchor on a distant shore, now trekking through the scorching Sahara in search of buried secrets. The song has rhythm like the heart of an ancient desert, its Moroccan folk influences as intoxicating as a mirage in the distance. It’s a track with a lot of spice to it. While the symphonic elements we’ve come to expect are still present, they’re now intertwined with exotic melodies that just seem to float on the winds like grains of sand.

This track has a pulse that could make even the most hardened sea dog’s feet start tapping. This also feels like one of the most danceable Visions of Atlantis songs that I’ve ever heard.  What I love about this track is the really strong, beautiful harmonies and the chanting-like echoes that come in through the background, and I really love how they went with these sort of traditional folk influences on this song.

This song really feels like it’s about living it up for one last night before facing something big the next day. It’s got this vibe of “let’s party and dance our worries away” while we still can. It could be the night before a massive battle or a dangerous raid. They know the risks, but they’re choosing to celebrate life while they can. It’s that “eat, drink, and be merry” attitude you’d expect from a crew facing potential doom.

It reminds me of those times when you know you’re about to face a huge life challenge – maybe a big exam, a job interview, or a major life change. Instead of stressing out, you decide to go out and have fun, to remind yourself you’re still alive and kicking. The whole song just screams “carpe diem” – seize the day. It’s about making the most of the moment you’re in, because you don’t know what tomorrow might bring. Whether you’re a pirate or just a regular person, sometimes you need to dance in the face of uncertainty. And I mean if you’re blasting this song, you’ll certainly be dancing.

‘The Dead of the Sea’ opens with an eerie creaking sound, reminiscent of wind whistling through the cracks of an old ship. It sets a haunting atmosphere, as if we’re aboard a ghost ship sailing through foggy waters. And really, it kinda comes in and out throughout the track. Meek takes the helm with the vocal work at the start, with his voice accompanied by a howling ambience in the background. It’s as if he’s channeling the spirits of long-lost sailors, their stories echoing across the waves.

As the song progresses, a really cool drum pattern comes in, I guess you could say it’s like the rhythmic beating of waves against the hull. This sets up for some truly impressive orchestrations that sweep in like a sudden storm. Remember what I said earlier about this album harkening back to the golden age of symphonic metal? Well, this 7-minute epic brings that feeling right back to the forefront.

To me this song is about a pirate, reflecting on their past actions and the consequences they’ve faced. It’s about regret, guilt, and the weight of past deeds. Almost like a buccaneer facing their mortality.  Battles, cannons, and raids give you this story of a life at sea filled with violence and danger.

For us landlubbers, this song feels like an internal struggle of someone grappling with their past mistakes and the harm they’ve caused to others. Or, the hurt that they have caused someone they love. It touches on the difficulty of facing one’s own actions and the want for forgiveness, both from others and from oneself. Now I think the songs title could represent both literal casualties of naval battles and a metaphorical state of being – feeling lost, disconnected, or spiritually adrift.

‘Ashes to the Sea’ opens with a nice touch of atmosphere, taking you to a coastal setting. The distant sound of crashing waves and seagulls creates a cool backdrop for your minds eye. As the instruments fade in, you can almost feel the salt spray on your face and the sand beneath your feet. The opening line reinforces this with “Here I stand beside the shore.’

I love their attention to detail with this stuff. The use of these subtle sound effects and atmospheric elements makes the listening experience so strong on a full playthrough.  The strings in the background add a touch of beauty and emotion to the track. Clem’s vocals on the first verse are complemented by Meek’s contribution in the second, creating a nice balance and interplay between their voices.

This song really does feel like a modern-day folk ballad, blending traditional elements with the band’s signature style. It’s got that timeless quality that makes you want to sway along and shed a tear. The addition of bagpipes is a great touch. It fits so naturally with the song’s Irish folk-inspired sound. It’s as if the band thought, “Well, if we’re going this route, we might as well go all in!”

This song is about loss, grief, and honoring a departed loved one. Maybe as a sailor paying respects to a fallen comrade, and performing a sea burial ritual. Then at the same time it feels like there is this internal struggle with feeling frozen by grief but also determined to fulfill a promise or duty. It really goes into the difficulty of letting go while also celebrating the lasting impact of a relationship.

Meek In Philly 2023 – Phot By Shuvam DasGupta For Folk N Rock

‘Hellfire’ kicks off with a bang, literally. The sound of cannons and a pipe organ sets an intense mood. As the militaristic drum beat builds up, you can feel the anticipation growing. The song then takes a heavy turn with a killer guitar riff. The screams of “Hellfire” really open up that transition, leading into a heavy symphonic sound.

Clem and Meek trade off lines throughout the verses, which adds a nice dynamic to the song. Their performances, along with the atmospheric sound effects, really sell the theme. I absolutely love how the band has now fully embraced these seafaring personas on the last two records. The chorus is a standout part of the song. It’s got that sing-along quality that could really get a crowd going at a live show. The “Burn, burn, burn” chant is simple but effective – I can already imagine fans shouting it back at the band, horns in the air.

There’s a cool little part in the second verse with a brief pause and a thumping sound, reminiscent of the Wellerman. Meek really shines here, delivering the vocals powerfully in sync with the thumping rhythm. It adds a little nautical flair to the track. The song takes a turn, unveiling a riff that harkens back to Metallica’s “One”. It’s as if the crew’s been caught in a broadside, with cannon fire raining down from all sides. The choir’s voices rise above the fray amidst the chaos. As the smoke clears, we’re treated to a solo that is intense.

To me this track feels like something that could resonate with anyone who has felt deceived by society, authority figures, or personal relationships. It’s all about that anger that comes with realizing they have been misled and the desire to reclaim one’s power and identity. I mean we have themes of revenge and destruction, which could be interpreted as a metaphor for radical change or breaking free from oppressive circumstances. It celebrates this newfound clarity to fight back against perceived wrongs.

‘Collide’ gets back into that super heavy territory that the band has seemed to have found on this album. This one really goes strong and leans into the more metal side of the band. It’s one of my personal favorite tracks on the album I think. And it probably has my favorite solo on the entire record. Like finding unexpected treasure, I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I just love the feel of this song.

It feels to me like this is about ultimate realization that change must come from within. The journey on this song moves from a sense of safety through turmoil and fear, ultimately arriving at a place of self-reliance and liberation. And I feel like this could apply to many life situations, from ending a relationship to changing careers or overcoming personal struggles. Or, getting a new ship.

‘Magic of the Night’ steers the album into stronger folk metal waters, with pipes adding that distinctive flavor. The vocal melodies really shine here, from the powerful choruses to Meek’s standout sections. Clem’s delivery is particularly noteworthy, lending an enchanting quality to the track. It’s fitting that the song’s title reflects its magical atmosphere. Speaking of which, a really cool highlight comes when the song shifts into a slower, keyboard-driven section, giving Clem a chance to truly showcase her talents.

‘Underwater’ stands out as one of the most emotionally charged tracks on the album. The first half is predominantly a piano ballad, showcasing Clementine’s amazing vocal work. The arrangement is enhanced by subtle vocal echoes and distant percussion, which gives it just a little bit more of  a kick of depth and atmosphere.

The keys take center stage for much of the song, steering through calm waters. However, at the midpoint, the track suddenly surges with power, like a ship caught in an unexpected squall. This shift in dynamics adds a huge, huge amount of intensity to an already powerful piece.

This one really hits you hard. It kind of feels like someone grappling with depression or a sense of being trapped in circumstances. It’s for those who feel they’re barely keeping their head above water, constantly fighting against unseen forces that threaten to pull them under. The emotional weight of such struggles can create a feeling of isolation, drowning, as if no one else can truly understand or hear their silent cries for help.

However, it also feels like there is a lifeline represented by a loved one or maybe even inner strength. I think that this could be very meaningful for someone who’s found a reason to keep going despite overwhelming odds.  Clinging to life through sheer will and the support of others.

And finally, we close on the final track of the album, ‘Where the Sky and Ocean Blend’. This epic piece stretches to around 7 minutes, rivaling the album’s other longest track. VOA clearly believes in ending with a bang, and they deliver a symphonic force that serves as a fitting end to the album.

As the track opens, there’s this enigmatic sound lingering in the background – a whisper of nature that could be the pitter-patter of rain on a ship’s deck, or the crackle of flames licking at driftwood. It’s hard to pin down on just what it is. But before you can really grasp it, the music surges forward like a tidal wave, washing away that tone.

Thomas once again unleashes a barrage on the drums that could rival cannon fire. The energy builds and builds, layer upon layer, until you’re completely swept up in its wake. Clementine’s vocal performance on this track leaves me spellbound. She takes her already impressive skills and cranks them up to eleven, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s jaw-dropping. It’s just completely incredible.

Then Meek storms in, bringing a contrasting style, and it as well is a powerful delivery. These two just have this perfect complement on their approach. What really catches my ear during Meek’s sections is the backing vocal response. It’s as if a ghostly crew is echoing his words. This call-and-response gives the song that epic feeling.

To me, this song is about someone who’s weathered countless storms, both literal and metaphorical. There’s some exhaustion here, like a weariness that comes from fighting battles both external and internal. There is a need for freedom and peace. It’s as you have been chasing these elusive concepts across the seven seas, only to find that true liberation might lie in surrender.

It makes me think of those moments at sea when the horizon disappears and you can’t tell where the water ends and the sky begins. There’s a sort of magic in that I think, a promise of escape and renewal.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been following Visions of Atlantis for quite a while now. In the early days, I’d casually listen to their older stuff, but it wasn’t until around the Siegfried era that I really started to pay attention. That’s when I began to truly focus on their music and appreciate what they were doing.

Since then, I’ve found myself increasingly drawn into their world. Each new release has been like charting a course through uncharted waters, discovering new  territories. It’s been really awesome to watch their evolution, seeing how they’ve refined their sound while still keeping true to their roots.

Looking back, it’s interesting to see how my relationship with their music has deepened over time. What started as a few tracks here and there for my playlist, has become something I actively seek out and analyze. It’s been a rewarding journey, and I’ve enjoyed watching them grow and develop as a band.

The shift in Visions of Atlantis’s musical current has been something else since they embarked on their Pirate saga. It’s hard to believe it’s only been about two years since that album dropped anchor in May of 2022. When I first gave it a listen, I was blown away by how solid it was from stem to stern – not a single track felt like dead weight. That record was like a fresh gust of wind in their sails, signaling a new direction for the band.

The impact of that album was so strong that it even secured a spot as the best symphonic metal album of the year on the Folk N Metal list. It’s not often you come across an album that manages to be both a turning point for a band and a standout in its genre, but Visions of Atlantis pulled it off with flying colors. The colors of the Jolly Roger, that is.

Visions of Atlantis has fully embraced the pirate theme, and they’re in the middle of shifting to a new era for the band. The only comparable example that comes to mind is David Bowie’s transformations. There was Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, the pop sensation of the 80s, and of course, Jareth the Goblin King (I just had to throw that in there). It feels like Visions of Atlantis is in that kind of shift right now, moving towards something bigger.

This transition seems pivotal for the band, as if they’re evolving into a more expansive and ambitious version of themselves. It’s an exciting time to be following their journey, watching as they chart a course for something new. I mean, they have managed to capture that old-school symphonic metal sound that many fans have been yearning for. They’ve struck a perfect balance, delivering the classic style while still keeping things fresh and unique.

Their approach to fusing cinematic, epic elements with symphonic metal is very impressive. The way they throw in folk metal influences adds another layer as well. What really stands out is how Clem and Meek craft their songs. They’ve fully embraced the pirate theme, but there’s always a deeper meaning lurking beneath the surface.

It’s clever how they manage to write lyrics that fit the nautical narrative while still touching on relatable, everyday experiences. And I think it’s this dual-layer approach their songwriting gives the music such a universal appeal. The band has  a way to take you to a world of high-seas adventure while simultaneously speaking to personal struggles and triumphs.

The level of complexity in Visions of Atlantis’s music is almost mind-boggling. Rock music on its own can be a challenge to record, but when you add in all the layers and elements they incorporate, it’s a whole different beast. You’d think with so much going on, some parts would get buried in the mix or the whole thing would sound cluttered.

But somehow, they’ve managed to make it all work together so well. Every instrument, every vocal line, every symphonic flourish has its place. Nothing gets lost in the shuffle. It’s like they’ve mastered the art of heavy metal Tetris, fitting all these pieces together perfectly. The execution is flawless. They’ve found a way to balance power and subtlety, creating a sound that’s full without being overwhelming.

The new direction VOA is taking is pretty exciting. Their earlier work had this Disney-esque Treasure Island vibe, which was charming and fun in its own right. But this new phase? It’s like they’ve sailed into darker, more treacherous waters. The shift to what feels like a “Black Sails” era is a game-changer. It’s grittier, more intense.

Speaking of Black Sails, a little bit of a side tangent for those of you spending this summer listening to some pirate metal: While you have those nautical themes running through your head, definitely check out Black Sails. It has Michael Bay as a producer, so there are explosions, Ray Stevenson as Blackbeard, nuff said, and the most banging use for a hurdy-gurdy in a series theme song that you will ever hear. But I digress.

But personally speaking, this is probably my favorite VOA album to date. I’m so happy to see them still carrying old school symphonic metal in this way and still cooking up something completely unique for everyone to enjoy.

The post Visions Of Atlantis – Pirates II: Armada Album Review appeared first on Folk N Rock.
Jeff